World Gita Day is here! 9 events all around the globe! Join in for a taste of the wisdom and impact of the Bhagavad Gita around the world!
As the sun goes around on the 25th our communities all over the world come together to spread the message of the Gita and we celebrate our endeavour distributing 2 million gitas as part of the Live to Give campaign!
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This material world is an ocean of misery. The Hare Krishna movement is a boat, headed back home, back to Godhead.
We pull people out of the water to dance and chant and feast, but we don’t want to throw them overboard when the festival ends, never to be seen again!
When they dive back into the ocean, Prabhupada’s books are a life jacket. Make sure they get one, every time.
Collecting their contact information is like the buoy & rope to pull them back in and stay connected.
Tips & Tricks
Scribbling their email address or phone number on a scrap of paper is better than nothing, but not the best. It can be lost, difficult to read, and it must be transferred onto a computer at some point anyway.
Better is to set up a landing page through a free email marketing software like Mailchimp.com. That way, you can just pull up the landing page on your smartphone, and they type in their address, phone number, name, whatever you want. You’ve got it on your list forever.
You can even set up automatic scheduled follow-up messages through such a system. Personal touch is generally better, if you can handle it!
Following up is more art than science. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Nothing can replace building strong follow-up habits.
How often should you follow up?
If you reach out completely cold and never had any interaction with the other person, follow up a maximum of six times. You really don’t have the type of relationship that gives you permission to do much more than that.
If you already had some kind of interaction and that interaction was not a clear, definite NO, then follow up as long as it takes to get a response. Never stop until you get a response.
It all depends on the context, the situation, the relationship and interactions you had with the other person.
Here’s a general schema for timing your follow-ups:
Day 1: First follow-up (+2)
Day 3: Follow-up (+4)
Day 7: Follow-up (+7)
Day 14: Follow-up (+14)
Day 28: Follow-up (+30)
Day 58: Follow-up (+30)
… from there on, once a month. You can put reminders in your calendar.
When you set up and follow a system like this, it’s easier to follow for the long-term.
Meeting someone and giving them a book is just the beginning. Make sure every encounter leads to a next step.
We have the opportunity to instruct these souls by giving them a book, exchanging contact information, and connecting them to temple programs. It takes gallons of blood to make a single devotee – go the extra mile. Make a friend! This is good preaching.
You never know who will become the next acharya. See every soul’s unlimited potential, not where they are at today. Prabhupada said if he made even one pure devotee from all his efforts, he would consider his life a success.
If you have any sort of contact list, try reaching out to them. You never know what will come of it. Have a simple script ready, and have a clear call to action at the end, whether selling them books, inviting to a program, joining a new online course, or whatever. Keep trying, for Srila Prabhupada. Good luck!
Sastra Dana & Motel Gita – The Gift of Spiritual Knowledge
An interview with the Experts: Mayapur Bihari Prabhu and Minakshi Devi Dasi
Q: What does Sastra Dana mean to you and why is it an important part of your temple’s book distribution?
MDD: For us in Toronto, the Sastra Dana program means distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books to venues and individuals that may not otherwise come across these books. And those that might be in a vulnerable situation. So that’s what it means to us, and it is really part and parcel of the sankirtana program and is one one part of that. Yeah, Sastra Dana means to me, spreading Srila Prabhupada’s works and philosophies. Especially early on, when we were distributing these books to even other temples, you know, they don’t have access to the philosophy. They might have Deities, a whole bunch of Deities set up on the same level, and the congregation has no access to what is the true philosophy, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
MBP: So, on very similar lines, to be able to provide this wonderful transcendental knowledge beyond those who would be visiting temples. Lord Chaitanya has blessed us that the holy name is spread in every town and every village of the world. How to go beyond where normally our book distributors may not necessarily be able to reach in person? Or, to go to people who probably would never ever visit a temple? And to target that audience, which is actually a huge audience, majority of the audience. So that’s where we’ve seen that giving this spiritual knowledge, “Sastra Dana,” the gift of spiritual knowledge, that’s a goal. And then, inspired by the huge vision and blessing of Vaisesika Prabhu. I have been fortunate enough that it is only his blessings. Having great ideas is one thing, but actually encouraging, and, you know, helping us implement that vision to form Sastra Dana.
Q: Could go into more specific initiatives within sastra dana that you’ve had success with? Any particular type of institutions? Any specific details you could give on what’s working right now for you?
MBP: Talking about Motel Gita. Inspired by whatever has already happened, we found that hotels and motels are a wonderful avenue, especially and even more in USA and North America. Because, you know, I think Krishna had a wonderful plan, just around when Srila Prabhupada came to us a lot of people, especially Gujaratis, people from India, started becoming hotel owners in the 60s and 70s. And so I personally felt that it was a very wonderful and easy platform, especially in the US, where 65% of hotel owners in the mid range segment are people of Indian origin. And it was very easy. I mean, we didn’t have to explain to them what is Bhagavad Gita, they already had been giving Gideon Bibles and even some Buddhist literature. So that was a no-brainer project to start with. And that has got an awesome response, especially from hotel owners of the Patel and Gujarati community, but even otherwise.
The fact that yoga, meditation, vegan food, is now getting prominence and even considered kind of a modern thing today, is definitely helping our cause as well, when we say that “This is a book which provides different ways of yoga,” even to those who are not very religious oriented. So that is helping us. So, yes, hotel is one thing which is forming a bulk of our program recently, with feedback and help from various devotees.
We have also started distributing Bhagavad Gitas to hospitals. In the USA, a lot of this feedback and guidance came from Minakshi Mataji, from what they were doing in Canada. And then this year itself, we may have distributed more than 10,000 books to hospitals, 10,000 Gitas. And maybe a small number, also to airports. But I would say primarily hotels and motels. And this year, at least 20-25% maybe a little less than that, to hospitals.
Q: On the topic of motel Gita, could you walk me through your step by step process of how you actually have achieved that success?
This program, I would divide into three parts. One is, the hotel owners. It’s very important that any program you can do, there should be people who are ready to receive it: here, the hotel owners. So as I mentioned earlier, we reach out to a lot of Asian American Hotel Owners Association members. This group has around 1.3 million rooms and growing. And as I mentioned earlier, 80 to 90% of them are people of Indian origin. So since last 11 years, we have had very good relations with them.
I remember the first time when we bought a booth which was in Washington, DC, that was in 2009, they charged us around $4,000, to even give us a booth. We took that risk, we had no idea how this would go on. But after that, since 12 years now, they have been giving us a free booth at their annual convention, which I mentioned is around $4,000-6,000. And also, they give us free booths for all the regional conventions. There are over 20 regional cities where they have trade shows.
So anyways, my point, summarizing it: a wonderful network with hotel owners, which helps us reach out to them. And because in the initial state, there are a lot of questions: Is this okay to keep? Will our business be impacted? Will the franchises agree to that? Will my clientele will be impacted? What if some Christian body notices, doesn’t agree with it? And so on. But going through this has certainly helped. So if anyone wants to start, we can we can team up with them, and give them a jumpstart on this.
The second thing is, it’s not possible, especially during COVID, but even otherwise, to reach all the hotel owners. So we have a small team in India, couple of devotees who actually call hotel owners every day on the phone and do a lot of logistics work. Like confirming that they have received the books, or the books are in the room, confirming the orders and so on. I think, from an operational perspective, this has worked awesomely well. Executing operation is very important and this has really helped.
The third thing for anyone to start is, of course, the blessing and support of the local congregation. Personally, of course, we are so fortunate, blessed by His Grase Vaisesika Maharaja himself, which helps us garner all the support that is required. When I say support it is, of course, a lot of Lakshmi. I’ll be very honest in saying that hotel owners have a habit, they’ve been getting Gideon Bibles free for 108 years now. And I’ve heard they get Buddhist literature and they they advertise in the same way. We will not even ask for donation, that’s their motto, their advertisement, and so on. So yes, a lot of Lakshmi and support is required. And then that’s where you know, the local congregation and we can talk more about that as well.
I just like to add one more thing. A big thing required here is an infrastructure and that’s where the BBT comes in, and I understand Veda Vit Prabhu is on this call. So we have a centralized team of dispatch, that department is handled by Veda Vit Prabhu. I mean, I personally realized how much vision and amazing amount of work Srila Prabhupada has put in. You know, for example, we did 80,000 Bhagavad Gita last year. It’s very easy for us because all we do is send a list of dispatch to LA team for Motel Gita, it’s headed by Veda Vit Prabhu, and they do amazing work. So to summarize, you need a robust infrastructure, BBT has provided us; you need Lakshmi, where we can get temple congregation and sponsorships available; and you need networking with hotel owners, which is available through AAHOA, and the team members and affiliates.
MDD: Yes, I absolutely agree with Mayapur Bihari Prabhu, it’s somewhat similar in Canada. We also have, really a team effort of everybody getting together in the whole Sankirtana team headed by Radha Mohana Prabhu and Shyama Mohini Mataji where it’s not just the calls, or the visits, but you need the back-end support, the fulfillment, getting the books from the BBT, doing all the calculations, order fulfillment, and raising funds from the congregation and favorable individuals. So, the entire Sankirtana team is working towards that goal to get those sponsorships in order for us to fulfill them.
And then, as far as the Motel Gita program, in Toronto, we have it where we start by letting the congregation know, periodically, what we’re doing, where the books are going, using testimonials, that type of thing. And I would say any motel or hotel is a candidate, definitely using referrals. So if you’ve placed them in the same town or city, or the same branded hotel, a Days Inn for example, or Howard Johnson’s, or whatnot, you can say, “Howard Johnson’s at such and such already has these Bhagavad Gitas, so you should also join the program.” So sort of name dropping, I would say. Definitely explaining the program about the stress relief, about it being no charge. And then the other thing that we do is, as soon as we ensure there’s acceptance, we try to get the book shipped out fairly quickly, so that they remember the conversation, and that they had actually accepted them.
Q: Where else have you found success with this program? You mentioned hospitals, schools, other institutions? Are there any specific points you can make about approaching those as well?
MDD: Well, beyond the motels and hotels, we’ve also had great success in hospitals. It’s a wonderful program where the books are not only given for the patients and their families, but they’re kept in the chapels and resource centers. And the chaplains are very much on board to have these books available and even mention them. We’ve had some hospitals where the population of their patients might be older and have asked for large-print Gitas or even audio CDs, like Durida Prabhu’s CD, we’ve complemented the books with those as well. So that’s been a really wonderful program and a lot of testimonials from that.
We have recently done courts. So courthouses are really, really appreciative of this. In fact, I just got a phone call a couple of days ago from a courthouse here in Toronto, really being appreciative. It was just unbelievable when he opened the box and saw the Gitas. And he says, “I’m going to be your advocate, I’m going to call other courthouses as well.” And I didn’t tell him that, “Well, they already have it too…” like, let him go “Rah, rah rah!”” So courthouses have been really wonderful as well. We’ve also been doing hospices, prisons, inmates within the prisons, libraries, temple programs, so their schools, their senior programs, airports as well, the chapels in the airport. So it is beyond just hotels and motels.
MBP: The US team started hospitals this year. And I was pleasantly surprised by the response. I mean, consider this year is very different. In fact, we just started, and you know, because of COVID and all. We were not sure, people may not like to keep books or external things in there. You know, we were skeptical whether they’d accept it. But maybe, because of these things that are happening, the pandemic… We received so many thank you letters from the hospitals. In fact, we’ve been receiving more thank you letters from hospitals, that this is a great stress reliever, especially in such times. So yes, that’s one of our major avenues besides the hotels. As I mentioned, I think they have already completed around 15,000 books this year in hospitals. And again, I feel we are also trying to target more libraries. We have some discussions going on with the BBT about if they can give us some assorted books, rather than just Bhagavad Gita to cater to different types of audience, but that will be a next target. Right now, yes, hospitals and hotels.
Q: What would be the first couple of steps that you would recommend someone take to launch this program, if they’re just getting started?
MDD: I would say, first of all, get buy-in from the temple. Because the temple, the management, they have to sort of be on board to what you’re doing. And then of course, have the Sankirtana team discuss and commit to the program and say, “Yes, we’re going to do this as part of our overall Sankirtana Book Distribution Program.” And I think the next step would be to get the congregation on board, and do that through presentations and say, “What are we going to do? And why are we doing this? What does Sastra Dana mean, gift of knowledge? And where are we going to put these books?” So you get their buy-in as well, because they’re the ones who are going to really help with the Laksmi side of things, and if we don’t have the Laksmi, we can’t afford to place the books. So I would say that would be the next.
And then it’s really the team effort of the congregation, of course, and then the Sankirtana team. And I think the next step would be, “Go for it!” Start small, don’t worry, you might mess up the first couple of calls or whatnot, it doesn’t matter. It is a learning experience, there might be some rejections, but we learn by starting those calls and going and visiting. And if you’re visiting, take the books with you. And just knock knock on the hotel door, motel door, hospital door, whatever. And present the books, and just start out.
And I think that follow up is important, because you want to make sure how it’s working for them. And replenishment is a really wonderful thing too. So if you see guests taking them out of the hotel rooms, then we’re here to replenish. You know, hospitals, they run out of them by giving them to patients, we’re here to replenish. That type of thing. So yeah, my thing would be just go for it. And do it as a temple, as a team.
MBP: The only other thing I would like to add is we, meaning Minakshi Mataji, myself and two other devotees, we are here. Sometimes a jumpstart would be tremendously good, rather than reinventing the wheel. For example, there have been a few devotees where we have calls on what to say, what not to say, when you are on call with, let’s say, a hospital chapel father, or some hotel owner.
We have, as I mentioned earlier, some local trade shows, at least in the USA, where we cannot reach out to 30 different cities, you know, to attend all the trade shows, but if local devotees want to attend, we can have them attend there. We can even jumpstart them with some contacts. We have some contacts who are favorable in that certain location and we can even help with that.
I completely agree with Mataji that this is possible once they have the buy-in from the temple. Yep. One very important thing also I’d like to say is that if we can somehow team up as one ISKCON family… what does that mean? One of the major blocker for some of the temples to participate in this, and I’ll be honest about it, is the Lakshmi part, the financial aspects. Because, you know, most of these institution, they don’t pay, many of the temples like the idea, but they cannot afford it, or you know, they cannot participate in it right now. Having said that, there are some other temples who reach out to us, especially during such December Marathon goals where they have excess Lakshmi commitments from devotees. I know there are some senior Srila Prabhupada disciples who want to give only for book distribution, because Prabhupada loved book distribution so much.
So my point is, we are ready to sync up and handshake. In other words, if certain temples can get some orders, but don’t have the Lakshmi to fulfill it, whereas there are other temples who have the Lakshmi and they don’t mind extra orders, we oftentimes do that handshake, especially during this December Marathon times. So please reach out to us in any ways you can help us. As Mataji mentioned earlier, there are a lot of back office works also, this is Sankirtana which you can do just on your phone. Even if there are people who are shy of meeting, you know, or going out. Even after pandemic, we have enough services that can be done on phone, like logistics, accounting, and so on.
Q: Could share a story that proves this program is working, or something you’ve seen happen that has really inspired you?
MDD: One poignant one that is actually very emotional, even for me, is that when we started sending books to prisons, to correctional institutions, which was a big process in itself, there was one prison here in Ontario where one particular inmate – he’s actually in for a very violent crime, I won’t go into the exact details – he came across the Bhagavad Gita. And he started reading it. And he started corresponding with us and asking questions, and then asking for more titles. And we started sending them to him.
And so now where he’s at is: he’s a vegetarian. He offers all his food to Krishna makes it prasadam. He has a little altar, we’ve sent him little pictures and such so he has a little altar. He’s chanting 16 rounds a day. And his whole outlook, and even his psyche has changed. He’s very calm person. When I speak to the chaplain, he’s been telling me his progress. And he’s actually now helping the chaplain in the chaplain Resource Center with other titles of Srila Prabhupada’s books, including the Bhagavad Gita, but other titles as well, including the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and showing them to other inmates. So he’s preaching inside, you know?
And we hope that eventually when he gets out, and I’m told it’s going to be soon, he might be up for initiation, you know, possibly from Bhakti Marga Swami. So let’s see. Yeah. So that’s how things can change with just Srila Prabhupada’s books. He would not, of course, have come across these books without the Sastra Dana program, because he’s inside a correctional institution, locked up.
MBP: This happened, I think, on the East Coast, somewhere near Washington or New York. So there was a hotel owner. When when the devotees personally went to deliver books at his hotels, he was a little reluctant to take the books and place it in his rooms. He didn’t see much merit in it. But the devotees tried to convince him and finally he said, “Okay, fine, I have a few rooms on my first floor. Let me try a few rooms. And if it works out, I’ll order.” If I recall correctly, he had multiple properties. So what happened was, he just put a few sample books in some of his rooms.
And apparently, a man checked in. And he was pretty disturbed. And the next day, he came to the counter with a book, with the Bhagavad Gita in his hand. And he actually told the hotel owner that he was contemplating suicide.And that was one of the reasons he checked in, and he was completely distressed. The only reason he picked up the book was because it was there. Out of curiosity, he started reading that book. And that changed him. In the morning – he apparently read it the whole night – he came and thanked the hotel owner, that this book actually saved his life.
The hotel owner could not believe it, what he was hearing. He immediately called the devotees with whom he was not even ready to keep the first box in his rooms. He actually shared this news with the devotees, what happened. He ordered Gitas, not only for that hotel, but I think he had one or two other properties, and he ordered Bhagavad Gitas for all his hotel rooms. So that was one very nice thing.
And in fact, there was another one that I heard… that there was, you know, a Mataji, some lady whose house was accidentally burned, so she had to stay in a hotel for a few months. And that’s where she came across Bhagavad Gita, and later on she was initiated. I’m not sure if this happened in Canada, Bhawani Mataji is her initiated name. And Prabhu, to Mataji’s thing, I also wanted to add, I know, if I’m not mistaken – and anyone on the call can please correct me – but I understand Vaisesika Maharaja has one initiated disciple, and that initiation actually took place in a jail, in a correctional facility. I understand that the person somehow or the other he came across the books as Mataji has mentioned. And unfortunately, it seems that he may never be released. I don’t know the details. But a couple of years ago, Vaisesika Maharaja himself went and initiated that devotee inside the correctional facility.
We can always email you a couple of more such testimonials and small stories that would help. Once a hotel owner texted me, a nice customer said, “Okay, I picked up this book because I could not sleep. But this is amazing. But now it’s time for me to catch my flight, I have to check out.” So she kept $5 in lieu of that book, and so that she could continue reading it. But it was time for her to check out of the room. So people like these would have never ever come across such wonderful literature, because they would have never visited our temples, or probably not met a devotee.
Q: Is there a script that is being used for motels, prisons, schools, etc? Is there a printed resource somewhere that people could have access to?
MBP: Yes. In fact, I received this request last week from another devotee, in the East Coast. I can share the script, we need to fine-tune it.
Q: How have you gotten sponsorships for all of these half a million gitas that have gone to motels? Is there any recommendations to help people raise Lakshmi to make it happen in their own town?
MBP: Good question. Very important question. It’s like the chicken or the egg – Do get the order first, or do you get the Lakshmi first? And I know I’m answering this question in a very long, roundabout way. So when we first went to our convention in Washington, DC in 2009, we had $600-700. And suddenly, in two days, we got orders for 21,000 books. And I’m not joking. And the size of ISV temple at that time was around 600 or 700 square feet. We did not know where will the Lakshmi come from, we were brainstorming it. We really had no idea how to go about it. In fact, ISV is still considered a small template, actually.
But, I think what happens is, if you how orders, you attract attention. You attract devotees who are ready to help out. There was one Patel person in our congregation. He just talked to me and the other devotee who initiated this, and out of nothing, he wrote a check for $25,000 and gave it to us.
Now, what I’m trying to say is, it’s not that something will similarly happen here. My point is that if you have projects, you will attract a crowd. Don’t don’t make it the other way around. Don’t keep it that, “Oh, if I have Laksmi, I’ll try to get orders.” I cannot say, “Okay, if you’ll give me $5,000, I’ll get the order,” which is okay, is not wrong to do. But if you have orders, and if you just share it, you may be surprised, positively surprised, people will suddenly come and help, because all the devotees want to help.
And the second thing is, get the blessings from the congregation, especially the temple president and whoever, let’s not bypass anyone. Amazing things can happen, “Okay, if I have 2000 books of orders, but where will I get Laksmi?” Let’s say you only have 200 books worth of Lakshmi, which is okay. Spread the news, there will be other temples who may be ready to help, or reach out to us. Yes, score is a small thing, we can work around that. But I have seen you know, if you make an announcement, especially on Gita Jayanti. “Okay, we have 3000 books of orders, but no Lakshmi.” You don’t know, amazing things may happen. That’s my experience.
Of course, having said that, personally, we have been very lucky because, being in Silicon Valley, we have, the more financial people, and of course, being where Vaisesika Prabhu is there, he attracts a lot of devotees, and that has helped us set up that project. And so with all humility, I can say we have been very lucky. That may not be the case everywhere. But I would just request the devotee sometimes to try the other approach. First get the order, and see how it goes around. And if you still don’t get Lakshmi, rest assured, we are here to execute it. One of the temple presidents has told me “Mayapur, get me 10,000 books of orders, I will execute it, don’t worry.” And that is not ISV, I’m talking about another temple president. And so, rest assured if you get an order, and have a Laksmi issue, we will still execute it. Just let us know.
Q: What keeps you going in this service? What is your big vision, or your end goal?
MDD: I think what keeps me going is being very, very, very grateful for Srila Prabhupada’s mercy. And this service is really just a small droplet in trying to – we can’t repay Srila Prabhupada – but it’s a small droplet in trying our small attempt, like an ant, to do so. I think that’s what keeps me going. And we know that these books, time and time again, story after story, are touching people’s hearts, are making a difference. Srila Prabhupada has said, these are time bombs. And they are, right? And especially now, with COVID as well, you don’t know where they’re going to touch. And also, I think as you distribute books, whether through Sastra Dana, or on the street, when you’re distributing, it actually changes something in your own heart and propels you to do more and more. So I think that’s what drives me. As far as the second part of what’s the end goal, I don’t think there is an end goal. Srila Prabhupada’s books can go on and on and hit as many as we can. There’s no end in sight. And these books are the law books for the next 10,000 years. So, you know, where’s the end?
MBP: Yeah, very similar to what Mataji has said. This book has personally helped me. Out of curiosity, I just picked up a book because it was lying in my home. Not because I was interested, not because I went to purchase it, but someone did it, and it was lying in my home, and as a teenager, I opened it. And it has helped me personally. And I see a lot of merit in doing this, especially because there are a lot of material facilities easily available, but there’s a dirth of this knowledge. And I see that my Google Maharaja, Vaisesika Maharaja, and Srila Prabhupada especially, are very fond, and they are very pleased when the books go out. That’s enough for me to keep it going. Yeah.
Q: If someone wants to reach out for training, should they just write to you?
MDD: That’ll work, we’re here to help.
How To Sell A Book:
8 Simple Steps To Distribute Like A Pro, Anywhere, Any Time, To Anyone
Compiled From The Teachings of Vaisesika Dasa
Table Of Contents
The 8 Steps
Trust The Hand
Give A Nutshell Presentation
Show & Tell
Maha Mantra & Prasadam
Cool As A Cucumber
Frequently Asked Questions
I offer my most humble obeisances to His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who invented the art of book distribution, and who taught it to all of us, and asked us to continue it. In his teachings to us about distributing books, he said a couple of things very specifically when we asked him about how to teach others to sell books. One of the things he said was teach the devotees to be sincere. He then pointed to his heart and said the master within the heart will show them how to do it. Therefore, although I’m sharing a template here, the main point is that you should be sincere, and speak from your heart, and people will get the message. Krishna will teach you how to do it, if you just practice and you try in that vein.
Nonetheless, if you have a template to work from, it gives you more confidence to start with. Just like when you’re learning to play the saxophone, you have to learn some basic skills, and where the keys are, and things like that. And after you get good at that, then you can start improvising. This template is straightforward and easy to follow. We’ll go through the steps here, so that you know how to present effectively.
We also have a card that shows the various steps. When you learn these steps, then you can even take this code with you. If you’re new and you’re presenting to people you can say, “Excuse me, I’m new. I’m a trainee.” In fact, you could put a little badge on it says “Trainee,” and say, “Don’t mind. I’m just trying this today. I don’t know how to do it.” But and you’ll find that people become very open to that and say, “Oh! No, no, I’ll help you out,” and at the end when you ask for donation they’ll say, “Yeah, of course, sure.” People are so nice, they don’t want to discourage you. So even if you’re a veteran, you can use that technique.
The 8 Steps
So here are the various steps to sell a book on its own merit. We’ll weave them together: 1. Radar, 2. Qualify, 3. Trust the hand, 4. Give a nutshell presentation, 5. Show and tell, 6. Compliment, 7. Humor, 8. Engage. Eight simple steps. Ashtanga. Keep in mind, there’s sufficient merit in our books that if you simply describe them sincerely, anyone will buy. Here we’ll be talking specifically about the Bhagavad Gita.
So the first step is radar. Now, when you get detected by a police man who’s using a radar gun, there’s a basic technology through which there’s a beam that hits your vehicle, bounces back to the machine itself, and tells how fast you’re going. And in a similar way, we use radar in order to detect whether people are ripe fruits or unripe fruits. For this you can use the power of your hand.
If you hold up your right hand, you’ll notice that there’s a beam, just like the radar gun, that will shoot out from the palm of your hand. You never knew you were such a powerful mystic, did you? When it hits somebody else, it will bounce off them, and if you watch them, you’ll notice whether they’re a ripe fruit or an unripe fruit. Okay, so when you point your radar at somebody, and say the mantra to activate it, you’ll shoot the beam. Are you ready? The mantra is “Hi.” Then look at the person who’s been hit with your beam. And what are they doing?
If they smile and say “Hi” back, they are a ripe fruit. If you shoot somebody else on the street, they might even not even look at you. Does that mean they’re ripe or unripe? Unripe. If they kind of smile a little bit, maybe they’re in the middle somewhere. But you will get a reading, and it will come back to you. So again, we’re not trying to convince everybody. That’s not our job. We’re only searching for the ripe fruits. It’s like a policeman, he doesn’t pull over everyone. He or she only pulls over those who are speeding. So we are selecting through this.
In any crowded place, you could get in anxiety by thinking, “Well, how am I going to deal with this?” Just deal with it individually. I’ll just start going like this to people: “Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi.” And you’ll notice in some places that are very passionate, fewer people will will respond. In places where sattva guna is prevailing a little more, more people will respond. But they will respond. That’s what living entities do. That’s what they do for a living, they respond. That’s a response. Response means that there’s a pulse that’s coming out. So you send a pulse, you get a pulse back. Tt’s a conscious contact to start with. And be very much aware of that in your select selection process. So hand power, activated through the mantra: “Hi. Hi, Hi.”
The next thing is to qualify, because people don’t know why you’re there. Or why they’re getting an object thrust into their hands. If they don’t know, then the confused mind usually says no. So, one way to qualify people is to tell them where you’re from, which is polite, and then ask where they’re from. So what I would say when I’m outside of California is, “California, where are you from?” And if I’m inside California, I’ll say, “Burlingame, where are you from?” Wherever you’re from, you can utilize that and then ask somebody where they’re from. And when they answer, then you can appreciate where they’re from, because wherever somebody is from is a worshipable place. It’s like H. Ross Perot, many years ago, when he was running for president, it was revealed that when he became a multi-billionaire, he went back to his original home, and he spent $2 million to turn all the bricks around in his house, because somebody had painted them. Because it’s a worshipable place. It’s his house.
So if you just simply appreciate where somebody is from, like, “Hi, California, where are you from?” “Illinois.” “I love Illinois. Illinois. That’s the home of the Fighting Illini, right?” Whatever you can say that is appreciative of the place. That’s why you’re giving them the book. That’s the qualification. “You’re from Illinois? Fantastic. I’ll show you one too.”
Say, “Show.” Say it louder. Say it again. Say two more times. Yeah, what are we doing? We’re showing. We’re not giving, we’re not selling, we are showing. “Show” is an innocuous term. It doesn’t obligate you to anything. It’s a simple thing. It’s what we all do in life, we like to show things to people. So the reason we’re showing it to you is because, “You’re from Illinois? Fantastic. Illinois? I’m going to show you one too.”
Trust The Hand
So, next thing is to trust the hand. Now, I want you to look at this iconic picture (on page X), which was taken about 15 years ago. But you’ll notice that lady’s hand and the look on her face. Do you see her countenance? Her face is not saying, “Oh, I’m really into this,” but look at what the hand is saying. The hand is saying, “I don’t care. I’ll take it anyway.” So, you’ll notice that oftentimes, when you encounter people, you’ll say, “Oh, good, I’ll show you one too.” And their mind is going, “Don’t do it.” But the hand goes, “No, I’ll do it!” Because that’s what hands do: they grab stuff. So, if you just put the book out… You notice that it’s a simple, visceral reaction, that if somebody hands you something, the hand will generally go for it, because that’s its Dharma. It grabs stuff. So let it do its Dharma. The hand will get purified and the person will get purified too, so trust the hand. Trust Krishna, also, that if you hand it over, nothing bad’s gonna happen.
Give A Nutshell Presentation
Next thing is, when you’re handing the book over, give them a reason to take it. Let their mind absorb something also: what’s in it for them? So here’s a mantra that works quite universally, although there are many, many mantras, here’s one that you can try: “Books on yoga and meditation that show you how to get free from stress.” Everyone say. Two more times. Two more times.
Good. It’s helpful to have that right on the tip of your mind, because when you start dealing with live people, your mind will be in a different state than it is now sitting peacefully in your own environment. If you’ve practiced that, and you have a mantra ready, when you’re handing the book over, you can say, “Books on yoga meditation that show you how to get free from stress.” And you’ll notice that he took the book. And now as I’m handing the book over, the book’s making an ark, and it’s on its way, right? Here comes to delivery. Federal Express. “Books on yoga and meditation that show you how to get free from stress.”
Try it again. “Books on yoga meditation that show you how to get free from stress.” I’m saying it while I’m handing the book over, because that helps them to understand: “There’s something in this for me.” And it helps to align the hand with the mind. Because even if the hand’s into it, if the mind isn’t into it, as soon as they get the book in their hand, then the mind can overrule and they’ll say “Take it back.” So you’re giving him an excuse, why they should take a look at it while you’re handing it over. To get free from stress. That’s an offer.
Questions Are The Answer
Now, one of the ways in which one communicates effectively in any circumstance, but especially here, is by asking questions, because questions are the answer. Make a question mark with with your fingers. Now, what does that resemble? A hook. So, a hook can drag the conversation in the way that you want it to go. And it also resembles a tennis racket. It also puts the ball back in their court. So if they ask something, or say something, that is either leading things in the wrong direction, or a question you can’t answer, you can answer a question with a question. Use your tennis racket or hook either to pull the conversation in the direction you want it to go or hit it back into their court. Don’t try to answer things you don’t know how to answer. And if you want a generic way to do that, if someone asks you something that you either don’t know how to answer, you don’t want to answer, you can just say, “How do you mean that?” So ask me a question. Any question?
How do you mean that? Anything that anybody asks you, in any circumstance, you can say, “How do you mean that?” Then they’ll have to redefine it, they’ll go, “Well, how do you mean ‘how do I mean that?'” You just hit the ball back at them. “I mean it like, you know, what city are you from?” “Oh, okay!” With any kind of question… “Are you a Hindu? “How do you mean that?” Then it’s like, “Uh, I don’t know how I mean that.” “Oh, okay, well, that’s all right then.”
So, “Books on yoga and meditation that show you how to get free from stress.” And as soon as the book touches their hand, then a question comes out, because questions are the answer. They’re also hooks, and they’re also tennis rackets. As soon as the book goes in their hand, you ask them a question to control the conversation. And that is, “You’ve heard of stress before, right?” Whether they say yes or no, it’s inconsequential. Because the next follow up is, “Really? You don’t look stressed. You look spiritual.” So, most people say “Yeah, I’ve heard a stress, of course, I’ve heard of stress.” And then we say, “Really? You don’t look stressed, you look spiritual. Or some people say, “No, I’m not stressed at all.” Then we say, “I know, I can tell. You don’t look stressed at all. You look spiritual.”
Now there’s a there’s a very powerful implication in this statement, “You look spiritual.” They are spiritual, they have forgotten. I also deal with people in a materialistic way, because I’m looking at their body. I can’t see their soul. But the Sri Isopanisad says that you should systematically see people as spiritual, anupasiti. And that means when you say, “You look spiritual,” what happens is: they change their mindset and they start thinking of themselves as spiritual, which is quite natural, because they are.
If you get up in the morning and walk out your door, and someone comes up to you and goes, “Oh, you look tired.” How do you feel? You start going like, “I guess I am tired.” Or if you wake up in the morning, you walk out your door, someone looks at you and goes, “You look terrible!” How do you feel? Terrible. Rest of the day, you’re thinking, “God, I feel terrible.” And if somebody comes up to you and looks at and goes, “You look spiritual!” How do you feel? You’ll notice it, it happens in an instant. When you tell people this: “You look spiritual.” They transform suddenly, in front of your eyes, and they achieve self-realization within a half a second, just by you telling telling them that, “You look spiritual!” “Oh my God, I forgot Krishna. I came from the spiritual world.” You know, all these thoughts that come to their mind just by this one statement.
What’s Your Secret?
So now you bring in other questions, like “What’s your secret?” Everyone say that. And if you don’t learn anything else, you don’t remember anything else today, if you remember this one question, and you ask that to people when you’re distributing books, you’ll notice that it’s the most powerful of all the questions you can ask them. The reason is because there’s a dynamic when we’re out distributing books that we’re trying to intervene in their lives. It’s just by context: we’re walking up to them, they’re going in their own direction, and we walk up and say, “Hey, come over here, I’m going to change your life.” People don’t like to have their lives changed. And there’s a subtlety there, where they’re thinking like, “Why are you trying to tell me anything?” And you’ll notice, that’s one of the main reasons that people back off and they say like, “Leave me alone,” or “I don’t want to read this,” or “I don’t need to read it,” or “I don’t want to give any money.” The reason is, there’s a stubbornness there. Like, “I’m okay, why are you telling me I’m not?” Because basically we are saying, “You should read this because it will make you better.”
So now when I’m asking them, “What’s your secret?” We’re changing the relationship, suddenly, within an instant. Now they’re becoming my teacher. I’m looking up to them because, number one: they are spiritual, and we just recognized that and they recognize it, and number two: I want to know what their secret is, how did they get that way? And that makes me their disciple, and they now become the guru. And this, they very much appreciate. All living beings do. So, “What’s your secret?” Now, they’ll start thinking of their secret, and it takes him a second. So people in the mode of ignorance will say, “I smoke a lot of marijuana.” People in the mode of passion will say, “I work out every day.” People in the mode of goodness will say, “I meditate and I read the Bhagavad Gita.”
You’ll notice a variety of answers. A portion of people, at least 30% will say, “I have no idea.” And then you’ll have to suggest something for them say, “Oh, you must come from a good family.” And if they say, “No, I don’t.” 10% of people say, “No, I don’t come from good family.” Other people will accept that. The other people, you could say, “You must just be a natural.” They’ll accept that. Okay, so let them be spiritual and let them have a secret. And if they don’t have one, fill it in for them. Okay so far? Say yes.
Show And Tell
Next is you take the book back. You just gave the book but in essence, basically, you’re taking back their book, just to show them their book. And now comes show and tell. So show and tell means “Here, I’ll show you really quick.” How fast are we telling them? Say “Really quick” five times. How fast are we showing them? Really quick. And the reason is, they’re thinking, “Is this a Bhagavatam class? Do I have to be here forever? Am I gonna be converted here on the spot? What’s gonna happen?” You just say, “Everything’s really quick. This is going to happen so fast, you won’t even believe it. Really quick, really quick, really quick. I’m just going to show you.”
So here’s a few things that you show them that are in and on the book. On the back cover of your Bhagavad Gita, you’ll find some names. What are they? This one book says Thoreau, Emerson, Gandhi. I add in a few more people who have read Bhagavad Gita that are well known. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, The Beatles, and Tupac Shakur. Tupac was a big fan of the Bhagavad Gita. He was a philosophical person and he’s well known in some cultures. Good to add in a little bit of everybody. And if you’re dealing with another culture, then you can add in names that people are more familiar with. Go with their culture. So all you have to do is just drop the names as if you’re taking them and throwing them up to the air. You don’t have to explain each one, just tell them, and you’ll notice that their mind starts catching on those names.
The next thing is to open the book and show them the Sanskrit writing, which is very beautiful in itself. And you’ll say, “Can you read this?” What will they say? 99.999% of the time, they’ll say no. And then you say, “Oh, I was just testing you. And that leads to the next point, “This has been translated into English over 400 times.” And now you’re turning to the front of the book, and say, “Out of all the translations, this is the most popular in universities.” Now you’ll find, in the front of your book, a list of universities, some of which at the bottom of the page are very well known. Like, here we have University of Southern California. Have you ever heard of USC? And also you’ll find down here Georgetown University. You know, the Hoyas, right? All you have to do is again, drop names. You’re pulling them out of hat” “You know USC?” “Yeah.” “You’ve heard of Georgetown University?” “Yeah.” That’s all you have to do.
Now, the next thing is, we’re still showing, and we turn to the changing bodies picture. So get good at finding this because you’ve got to get there fast. Because how fast are you showing them? Really quick, really quick, really quick. So here we have a picture. And when you’re showing them, you hold it up so they can see it very well and say, “Listen, we start here, we end up here, we’re all just passing through.” And then you can ask them a question, “Where are you in all this?” People will look at that. It gets their mind engaged, they get to participate a little bit and show where they’re from.
On the next page, you can show and tell. This one shows the sage, and the sage is looking at the various entities in the world. And here’s another mantra, “A self-realized person treats everyone with respect because he or she sees God, or the spirit, within everyone’s heart.” When you show them that you tell that a spiritual person respects everybody, they like that point very much. Next comes another question. You don’t want to go too long without asking a question, because a question holds everything together. So the next thing you ask is, “You’ve heard of karma, right?” “What does it mean to you?” That’s another question. So asked one question, she answered, I’m asking another, “What does it mean to you?”
Whatever they say, here’s my answer: “Whoa, what a great explanation. I really like the way you put things. If more people thought like you, the world would be a better to live in.” You’ve really got to lean into it. This is a time in your presentation to add a little energy to it, and to appreciate them. After all, they’re your guru. They’re teaching you. You asked them what their secret is for being spiritual. And now you’re asking them questions, and when they give you answers, you really appreciate them heavily. Okay? You can’t overemphasize when you do this. Go into your “Bozo Zone.” That means you go more than you thought was necessary. “Wow, what a great explanation!” That will get them ready for the next part.
Here is another mantra you can use anytime in your presentation. It goes well in this part, but “What’s your secret?” and this mantra will get you through practically any presentation. So please repeat after me: “If more people in the world thought like you, the world would be a better place to live.” So when people bring up things, you can use this mantra. So I showed them karma, I said, “Look, generosity breeds generosity, violence breeds violence.” And I show them this cow with a man’s head and man with a cow’s head. If you feel squeamish about this picture, you can skip it.
The next part is humor. So we ask people another question, “What do you do professionally?” They say “I’m a civil engineer, I’m Sunday school teacher, I’m a dancer,” and then I show this picture of the yogi with the soul leaving through his head and say, “Really? This guy used to be a civil engineer.” Or, “Yeah, this guy used to be a Sunday school teacher.” Or, “Yeah, this guy used to be a dancer.” And then what do they do? They laugh 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time they say, “Really?” And then you say, “No, not really.” And then they go, “Ha ha ha,” and just as they’re laughing, that’s when you hand the book back.
As I’m handing it, I say, “We don’t sell it like in a bookstore.” So now that’s important, as I’m saying this, watch the timing. As I’m handing the book back, I’m saying, “We don’t sell it.” Those are the words they want to hear. When the book is halfway to their hand: “We don’t sell it.” And they’re going, “Okay, hand, go ahead, you can take it.” Hand’s going, “Can I take it?” You go, “We don’t sell it,” and they go, “All right, take it.” “We don’t sell it like in a bookstore, we just ask for donation.”
Now comes the rest of the mantra. They have the book in their hand now. Say, “We don’t need the money.” Use your hands. “We don’t need the money. The only reason we ask is that it’s an ancient tradition: When you give something in return for spiritual knowledge, it connects it to the previous teachers who have passed it down over many generations, and allows you to enter deeply within the knowledge.” And then point to the book. Okay, let’s try it again. “We don’t need the money. The only reason we ask, it’s an ancient tradition. When you give something in return for spiritual knowledge, it connects you to the previous teachers who have passed it down over many generations, and allows you to enter deeply within the knowledge.” Try it again, read it off the script, use hand gestures. One more time.
If you’d like, you can always say how much it costs. “It costs $10 to print, ship, and anything you give over that is a donation.” Or, you can just let them give whatever they want to give. You can go either way, and you can practice both ways. When you say, “It costs $10 to print, to ship…” then it gives them something for the mind to shoot for. Because oftentimes, the reason people don’t give donations is because they’re thinking, “I don’t know what to give.” So if you give them something to shoot for, you say $10, then they’ll give more than $10. You say, “Anything you give over that is a donation.” Or they’ll give less than ten, then they’ll say, “Is this okay?” But at least it gives them the range. Or you can just leave it open to them, either way.
And a few comebacks. They say, “I already know all about this.” We say, “That’s great. I could tell by looking at you.” Or I say, “I know, that’s why I picked you out. I could tell! You look like somebody knows everything about everything.” And then, “I’m a blank. I’m a Buddhist, I’m a Muslim. I’m a Christian.” Okay, so, “Oh, great. I’ll show you this one.” I’m going to hand them a different book. But whatever they say: “I’m a Buddhist, I’m a Christian, I’m a Muslim,” don’t force them to take the book. Once their hand starts rejecting it, once they’ve rejected it, take it. Respect the rejections. Respect their objections. Always honor their objections and honor their rejection. Don’t resist, because whatever you resist will grow. It will just make them more determined to resist it.
So as I’m handing it, and I notice they’re resisting – their hand’s already coming back – I just take it right back, go with the flow, this is the martial arts or Aikido of book distribution. Take it back, go with their flow, and then hand them another one. They will take a different book. And then you start giving context. This is one of the times to use this mantra that, “If there were more people like you in the world, it would be a better place to live.” Like, I was in front of the museum in Toronto, and handed the book, someone said, “Oh, I’m a Christian.” And so I gave him a different one and said, “If there were more people like you in the world, more people of faith, it would be a better world to live in. You’re what’s keeping the world alive,” and he took the book. So just replace it with something else.
“Are you selling this?” Anybody ever asked you this? Here’s the answer: “We refuse to sell it. It’s too valuable. We just take a donation.” And be adamant. They say, “You selling this?” “We refuse to sell it. It’s too valuable. We only take a donation.” Okay, “How much should I donate?” “We try to keep it under 100, but in your case, we’re thinking about making an exception.”
Maha-Mantra & Prasadam
Okay, so when you get the donation, then you teach them the maha-mantra. You can ask them this question, “Do you believe in the power of prayer?” Say it. They say, “Yes,” and you move on. They say “No,” and you say, “Perfect. I’ll teach you a mantra instead.” So, do you believe in the power of prayer? “No? perfect. I’ll teach you a mantra. Do you believe in the power of prayer? Yes? Perfect. Repeat after me. This is a beautiful prayer, it’s meant to wake up love for God in your heart. You show them the mantra card and say, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare.”
And then, you give them prasadam. So, they get the book, they give you a donation, they learn the mantra, and then you give them prasadam at the end. And then you get their contact information if they’re up for that. And then you thank them for taking their valuable time. So the way you do that is to say, “Thank you for taking your valuable time,” and if it’s appropriate, you shake their hand and say, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you.” Leave them with a good impression. And our prime directive is what? To leave everyone with a good impression. Very good.
So I’m going to just go through the steps really quick. Practice going through these steps with a friend. Are you ready? Say yes. Okay. Here are the steps: Radar. Qualify. Trust the hand. Give a nutshell presentation. Show and tell. Compliment. Humor. Engage.
First thing is radar. Use your hand. “Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi.” Yeah, you meet a ripe fruit. Then you say, “I’m from Chennai, where are you from?” And they’re like, “I’m from California.” “California. I love California!” When I was just in Tokyo, practically everybody’s Japanese in Tokyo. I’d walk up the street and go, “Are you Japanese? Fantastic. This is for you.” So when you qualify them, it’s like, “I’m from, where you from?” When they tell you where they’re from, just appreciate the place they’re from, wherever it is. “I’m from Connecticut.” “Connecticut? Fantastic. I love Connecticut. This from San Francisco to Connecticut.” That’s the whole thing. It’s the whole context: Where are you from?
Trust the hand. You put in their hand, but while you’re handing the book over, as it’s making its arc, say, “Books on yoga and meditation that show you how to get free from stress.” Bring out your hook, “You’ve heard of stress before, right?”
They say yes. You say, “Really? You don’t look stressed, you look spiritual.” Here comes the biggest hook of all: “What’s your secret?” Say it. Yes. And now, take the book back for show and tell. “Here, I’ll show you really quick.” How fast? Really quick.
On the back, we’re just name dropping. Thoreau, Gandhi, Emerson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Einstein, The Beatles and Tupac Shakur. Don’t forget Tupac. Okay, now show them the Sanskrit inside and say, “Can you read this?” They say no, say “I was just testing you. Don’t worry, it’s all been translated into English in over 400 translations, and out of all of them, these have become the most popular in universities. Now show them the universities in the front of the book. You can show them USC, Georgetown University.
Next you show them a picture, changing bodies, and say, “Look, we start here, we end up there, we’re just passing through, where are you in all this?” That’s the next question. They show you and then you say, “Here, look at this: a self realized person treats everyone with respect – that’s the key word – because he or she sees God within everyone’s heart.” Next, another question, “Youve heard of karma, right? What does it mean to you? Woah! I love the way you put things. What a great explanation. If there were more people like you in the world, it would be a better place to live.” Now I ask them, what do you do professionally? Software engineer, what kind of software? What kind of computer science? What kind of hardware? What kind of chips? What kind of microchips? What brand? Broadcom? Listen, this guy used to be in Broadcom.” Pointing at the picture of the yogi.
The more specific you can make it. Like if somebody says, “I’m a teacher.” “What kind of teacher?” “I teach zoology.” “Get outta here! This guy used to teach zoology!” That’s when they laugh. 50% of the people laugh, and the other 50% of the people say, “Really?” And then you say, “Not really.” And then they laugh. It’s funny. And people get it. As soon as they laugh, then you hand the book back. When you hear the “Hahaha,” that’s when you’re handing the book back.
And as you hand it back, as the book’s making its arc, you say, “We don’t sell it like in a bookstore. We just asked for donation. We don’t need the money. The only reason we ask, it’s an ancient tradition, when you give something in return for spiritual knowledge, it connects it to the previous teachers who have passed it down over many generations, and allows you to enter deeply within the knowledge.” And then you could say, “It costs us $10 to print, ship and store. Anything you give over that is a donation.” And then they give a donation.
Next point, give them the maha-mantra. “You believe in the power of prayer?” “Yes.” “I’ll teach you this beautiful prayer, meant to wake up love for God in your heart, you teach the maha-mantra, then you say, “This is for being so nice.” And you give them some prasadam. That’s self explanatory. Then get their contact information. And lastly, thank them for taking the valuable time and say it’s been a pleasure meeting you shake your hand. The prime directive is to leave everyone with a good impression.
Cool As A Cucumber
Here’s what I see many devotees doing. They got the book out like this. And walking in the street. People see him coming from a mile away and they go, “Okay, cross the street before we get to that guy.” What you want to do is keep the book out of your hands. So they’re thinking, “Oh, that guy can’t hurt me, he doesn’t have any books in his hands.” You can either keep it under your arm, or you keep it on the table, or you keep it in your book bag. It’s not visible. It’s not in your hand like this, like you’re trying to attack somebody with it.
Best is to hang back, because you’re actually looking for the ripe fruits. You don’t have to chase after them. Stand back. You got to be cool as a cucumber in an ice box. And then from here say, “Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi.” Don’t be chasing after them. Just stay back and then watch and see who’s out there. See who looks at you. And once you see them respond, then you can use your mantras to continue the conversation.
Find a friend to practice with. Go through it as quickly as possible. Just try to do the reps. Don’t think about it. Just do it. When receiving, don’t give them any trouble. Give them straightforward answers and if they forget something, help them through. What you’re trying to do right now is just get one repetition. So you go through it fast. You just take a couple of minutes. On your mark. Get set. Distribute!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why show changing bodies? Can we teach them other lessons from the Gita?
A: Yes, it’s a very deep concept that most people very much appreciate. Although we’ve seen changing bodies many, many times, when you show to other people, it’s a revelation. They see it for the first time. And that’s one of the very important aspects of Bhagavad Gita is, we’re on a continuum. So basically, yes, we’re giving the essence of the philosophy. We’re also bringing up karma as well. These couple of things are giving the basic philosophy of Bhagavad Gita and you don’t need to give them a lot more than that in order for them to appreciate and take the book. There’s no harm in teaching other things, but I suggest you learn this template because it will work everywhere, every time, to all the people that you meet, and you will be very satisfied with it. After you learn to use this template, which flat out works, then you can innovate in any other way that you like. You could start bringing up more intricate philosophy and see if they appreciate it. Okay. All right. Any other things before you go the other way? Yes.
Q: So we are not allowed to speak our own realizations on Bhagavad Gita knowledge?
A: Yes, you may speak all your realizations to the whole world. I just recommend that you learn this template, and then work off the template to innovate after that. Because once you have a basic track, and you know how it works, then you can start inserting things. It’s like learning to play an instrument. First you learn your scales, then you can start playing jazz and everything else.
Take five more minutes to practice. Just get the rep in and make sure you practice one time because we’re going to go out and we’re going to touch the pavement. We’re not going to distribute any books, but if you feel like it after you touch the pavement, then you can try doing this if you feel like it. On your mark, get set, go.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare
Gaura Premanandi. Haribol. Now we’ll just take a few questions or reflections you have from the presentation places where you thought there was a gap, or you weren’t sure about what to do.
Q: In the past, sometimes when I tell people about how specifies people are able to see God in everyone, and they’re atheists, they start challenging the philosophy and they start coming right at you.
A: I put in that presentation, “Spirit.” Oftentimes, if you eliminate the word “God” from your vocabulary when you’re talking to people in the Bay Area, and some other places -In Illinois, it will work okay. You can say “God” all day long and people take the book – but in California, generally if you say God, then that’s a buzzword that irritates them. So, “This self-realized person treats everybody with respect because he sees the spiritual value of everyone.” Just change “God” to “spiritual,” and that that should usually be acceptable. That can even be accommodated sometimes by atheists. They can justify the idea of being spiritual as being part of mindfulness or something like that.
Q: Suppose when we get some mothers or, you know, parents of children, so can we emphasize that Bhagavad-Gita will help your kids?
A:Yes, you may.
Q: What is the person is being especially difficult?
A: Don’t worry about special cases, everyone has some idea in their mind about some special case that comes up. They’re one in 1000 or one in 100. It doesn’t matter. You’re looking for the general presentation. Sometimes people have objections that fall into a particular category, and you’ll learn how to deal with those things. But those very specific special things that somebody made up just to throw you off – they’re not that important.
But in general, the principle is: If somebody gives an objection, then honor the objection. Appreciate it. Like if somebody says, what’s a common objection, “I don’t have time,” or something like that. Say, “I can appreciate that, you look like a very productive person, you’re probably really busy, right?” I’m honoring the objection rather than saying, “No, no, you should take some time,” or something like that, then they’re resist it more.
Which pictures are most important to show?
A: Most important is the changing bodies, and also just ask about karma, you only have to actually show them one color plate. If you if you show them, “Look, we’re passing through, life’s like a quick journey, right?” And then after that, you just say, “You’ve heard of karma?” They say yes. And you say, “What does it mean to you?” “What goes around comes around.” “What an amazing answer. You’re amazing. If more people thought like you it would be a better world to live in. What do you do professionally?” You can cut right to that.
And also, if you walk up to somebody and you show them the Bhagavad Gita, and they say, “Bhagavad Gita! I’ve been looking for this, how much is it?” Don’t say, “Hold on a second, I gotta do my thing.” And you start going through the whole thing. No. Just as soon as you see daylight, go for it. If halfway through the presentation he says, “How much are you selling it for?” Say, “We won’t sell it, we refuse to sell this, it’s too valuable. We just take a donation. And we don’t need the money.” Meanwhile, they’re digging in their pocket, they’re giving, so you don’t have to drag out the rest of your presentation. Use use your common sense.
This is one complete presentation, but it can be parsed. You can break it into pieces and present it in any way that you see fit. And that’s where the genius comes in. At least it gives you a track because when you get out there, and there’s live bullets flying and people going every which way, your mind kind of goes a little haywire. “What do I do now?” And I see devotees all the time, they learn the presentation and they get out in the street and they start doing something else completely different. I recommend at least where you get out there, try to do this all the way through until you get it down one rep. And that’s when I guarantee that you’re going to sell the book. I don’t gaurantee it if you make up your own stuff. Don’t come crying back to me, “It doesn’t work!” What doesn’t work? All the stuff you made up. Just follow this. You follow this and I promise you, you’ll sell Bhagavad Gita’s out there and people will take them. Do it, just like I said, and it’ll work.
And then you’ll start to see why it works. And then you can start innovating and changing it, doing whatever you want, and you’ll be off on your own. Otherwise, you can just stick to this. And you’ll just sell books day after day after day. And when that gets boring, you can try something else.
Q: When we are showing it to Indians…
A: Yes. Thanks for bringing that up. So with Indians, I wanted to point out that I don’t show them a book. Because it’s an insult to their intelligence. I mean, it’s like if I stood in America and I started selling Bibles and said, “Hey, here’s the Bible,” people would be like, “What are you talking about? I already know the Bible.” And so, with Indians, when you thrust a book at them, they’re take it as you trying to bring them back to something they have guilt about, that they’re not following anyway, and it gets really complicated in their mind. So don’t offend them, don’t complicate their lives.
What I do when I meet Indians is I don’t hand them a thing. I just stand there, and talk to them, and I tell them what we’re doing. I acknowledge the fact that they know more than me. That’s a standard principle with anybody. They’re the guru, I’m just explaining what they already know. That’s the psychology. And with Indians, I just tell them, “As you know, better than I, the Bhagavad Gita solves the problems of life from a spiritual level.” I’m not handing it to them. I say, “But what we’re doing is, we’re making Bhagavad Gita available to people all over the world. And not only in English, but also in Russian and Japanese and Chinese. And we’re setting up centers to teach Bhagavad Gita to help people all over the world. So, what we’re doing out here is a fundraiser. And for those who already know about Bhagavad Gita, like you – your mother knows Bhagavad Gita, your grandmother memorized the Bhagavad Gita – we just ask for money, we just ask for donation.”
And you didn’t hand him anything. So it’s not tit for tat, you’re not giving back for something, you’re just telling him what you’re doing, and saying, “We ask you for a donation, it’s a fundraiser.” And Indians, when you do that, they’ll be very happy to give you a donation. They’ll give you lots of money. And then, after they give the donation, then you can pull out the book and say, “Here, by the way, this is for you.” And they’ll be very pleased to take more. So even when I go to doors, and I meet Indians, unless I’m selling sets of Bhagavatams, I resist from handing them things, because that’s what ruins it for them. It becomes a mental block. Indians are different. It’s a cultural thing.
Q: How much eye contact is important when selling the book?
A: You should be aware of that. If they look at their watch, that’s a real sign that you should cut to the chase. So that means if you’re talking to somebody, say, “Really quick,” and they look at their watch, you say, “So, I’ll just finish up right now because I think you have to go. and they’ll go, “Yeah, I gotta go.” “Okay, we don’t sell it. We just take a donation.” Boom, just finish right there. So be very aware of what their body language is.
Q: Is it okay to sell multiple books at once?
A: Yes. Always sell in bunches, like bananas.
Q: When we ask for donation, what if they say, “I don’t want the book?”
Well, then they don’t want the book. That’s okay. You can take it back. The reason we’re asking for donations is… we don’t need the money. That’s a fact. That’s why we’re saying that. We don’t need the money. Krishna will supply money in any which way in order for us to spread the Krishna consciousness movement. The reason we ask is, in the Gita Krishna says, “Don’t give this to somebody who’s not devoted or austere.” So how are you going to tell? And if you ask for donation, they give something in return, then that’s an austerity. And it also shows a little bit of devotion.
Also, if they give their undivided attention, but they don’t have any money at the end, that’s okay, too. They gave their attention, they paid attention. That’s why we use that phrase. And then you can use your discretion and say, “You can keep it anyway.” What we don’t want to do is give it to people who aren’t interested in it. We want to find good homes. And generally, when somebody gives something in return, anything, then it makes them more attached to the book because they gave something in exchange.
And your specific question was, if they say, “No, I don’t want the book,” then just take it back. Always honor their objection. And if the energy is coming back at you take it, don’t try to force it on them because it won’t stay, it’ll just build up even more. You could always, if they give the book back, as I mentioned before, they hand this one back, just without saying anything, hand them the next size. You can give them a Sri Isopanisad or something else.
I had a guy, I was in Hong Kong, and it was down by the wharf. And some guy, he was he was very cynical, but I kept showing him. I showed him one book, he handed it back. I showed him another book, I showed him another book. And because they were different books, he kept taking them in his hand. And he got to the seventh book, and he finally just reached in his pocket and gave a donation. And so you’ll find that oftentimes this will work.
But if someone just says no, they’re not interested, leave them with a good impression. Thank them for taking their valuable time. Our goal isn’t to sell a book to every person. It’s to make a positive interaction with them, and leave them with a good impression. So if they want to get away, let them get away clean. And leave them with a strong impression that you cared about them, not about winning in the transaction. You didn’t have to win the transaction to be their friend. Let him go. And what you’ll find is, that keeps the atmosphere clean. And you’ll be in a nice, blissful state of mind because you’re detached, because you’re thinking, “Krishna will send me the people. I don’t have to convince every person. If somebody rejects it, that’s fine, too.” Just don’t grab onto that rejection energy, let it go. And what will happen then is, all kinds of miraculous things will start happening. You’ll see the miracle.
Q: What if people don’t stop when you say “Hi?”
A: So generally they don’t stop. But you’ll notice that there’s a ratio that do. That’s the whole point. It’s the point isn’t that if you say “Hi,” everyone’s going to stop, that’s not what I said. What I said was, you’re selecting out of the crowd when you shoot your radar. I specifically mentioned when the highway patrolman is shooting his radar gun, he doesn’t get everybody. He gets one out of 1000. So when you’re standing down on the street, or wherever you are, and you say, “Hi, hi, hi.” Everyone’s going to go by except for the ones you want to talk to. And they’re going to look at you and go “Hi!” They’re open, they’re ripe fruits. That’s when you start talking to them.
Q: What if they say “Hi” back and keep moving?
A: Now that’s when you ask them a question, because a question is a hook. If you want to catch somebody, use a hook. So here’s two hooks to use. So if I say, “Hi” and they smile, they’re still moving a little bit, I say, “California, where are you from?” Or “Burlingame, where are you from? Chennai, Where are you from? India, Where are you from?” And then they’ll say, “Such and such,” right? “You’re from India? I love India!”
Now, here’s another hook. The Fist Bump. It’s irresistible. People can’t resist this. When you put your fist out like this, it’s a very non-committal handshake. And from across the street, sometimes I’ll hold out the fist bump, and people go, “Alright,” and they’ll come through traffic, risking life and limb, “Okay, I got it!” Because people want that. They want a little connection with another living entity, and you’re going like, “Hey, hey, hey, here I am, come on now!” and they’re like, “Yeah, alright!”
And so then then once you get them over there, then you’re saying, “You’re from India? I love India, great! This is from America to India, books on yoga and meditation, shows you how to get free from stress. You’ve heard of stress before, right?” And you’re off with your presentation, which has intermittent questions, which hold the whole thing together. It’s just like when you put the yeast in a cake, it holds the whole thing together. So the whole thing is like a structured house, it has all the questions and all the presentations that you need to live in a decent house.
So use the question as a hook. Like, “I’m from India, where are you from?” “I’m from Illinois.” “Illinois? Are you serious? You’re from Illinois?” Ask him again. “Yeah.” “Fantastic. I love Illinois. Great. This is from Chennai to Illinois. Books on yoga and meditation, shows how you get free from stress. You’ve heard of stress before, right? Really, you don’t look stressed, you look spiritual. What’s your secret?” You go on from there, and you’re off and running.
Q: Some people say they are reading Bible. So is there any way we can connect Bhagavad Gita to Bible?
Sure, it’s all about God. Main thing is, when somebody says, “I’m reading this, or I’m reading that,” they’re saying, “I already have something.” So again, you honor the objection. So someone says, “I’m reading the Bible,” say, “I could tell, you look spiritual.” That’s one of the things that you tell people when they use a particular thing to tell you that they’re not interested. Basically, they say, “I already do this, I already do that. I already have this.” Say like, “I know, I could tell by looking at you. If there were more people like you in the world, reading the Bible, it would be a better place to live, it’s people of faith, like you that are keeping the world afloat.”
So acknowledge immediately, whatever designation or objection that they offer. You fully acknowledge it, you appreciate it. And then it leaves an opening for you to present what you have. Once you honor what they have, then you can present what you have. And if you reject it, that’s just what they’re resistant to. Everyone’s walking around and they have a little protective shell around them like, “This is my identity, this is who I am.” And if you challenge that, and you don’t honor it, they will not be open to what you have to offer. So you have to be beyond ecumenical, you have to be downright universal and appreciate where everybody’s coming from.
And that’s one of the reasons that this is high sadhana, you have to develop that kind of vision. And you have to extract the spirit from the matter. You have to extract the pure devotion from the mixture of everything else that anybody has that’s going on. You’ll find that little spark in there, and you just fan it. And once you fan it, then miracles happen by Krishna’s arrangement. Krishna is in there helping you. He’s sitting in their heart going like, “Take it, take it, take it, take it, take it, take it,” and they’re like “Who said that?” You’re going, “You take it,” and Krishna’s going, “You take it,” so they go, “All right, I’ll take it.”
It’s a transcendental process. You have to depend on Krishna. You have to be ready for it, and you go out and you practice, and you’ll see, it’ll all come together. It’s like a symphony happening out there. And you’ll realize that, “I’m part of something way bigger than myself. It’s not all about me.” There’s five factors of every action. You go out and depend on Krishna and do the best you can, and Krishna will supply the people. That’s why you’ll feel a relationship with the Lord by doing this kind of work. Like, “It’s not me that’s doing it. Krishna’s arranging these things. I am insignificant, I don’t know how to do it.”
Get Out There!
So now we have the opportunity to go out and touch the pavement. That means we’re not going out to distribute any books today. We’re just going out to see if we can move from this place to the place that we’re designated to go, and once we touch the pavement then we’re done for the day. And if you want to try anything after that, it’s completely up to you, and it’s completely extra. No expectation of selling a book, performing, doing well. Just feel free to have fun today.
The following is an excerpt from “Our Family Business” by His Grace Vaisesika Dasa, available here.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
The following letters from Śrīla Prabhupāda make clear to his disciples what is the main thing for those who wish to practice and teach devotional service:
The main thing is that you must set nice example for the others by following very rigidly the regulative principles, such as chanting sixteen rounds on the beads, reading the books, getting up to attend maṅgala-ārātrika, etc. In this way everyone shall be encouraged.
And on the very same day, he wrote to another disciple:
It is so very nice to hear how the book distribution is going on. This is our main business, distributing these books all over the world and thus turning the minds of the fallen souls towards Kṛṣṇa.
In his purport to Bhagavad-gītā (6.24), Śrīla Prabhupāda comments:
The yoga practitioner should be determined and should patiently prosecute the practice without deviation. One should be sure of success at the end and pursue this course with great perseverance, not becoming discouraged if there is any delay in the attainment of success. Success is sure for the rigid practitioner.
In the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, then, the main thing should be to rigidly practice devotional service and share the nectar of advancing in spiritual life with others.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī elaborates on this principle in The Nectar of Instruction (8):
The essence of all advice is that one should utilize one’s full time – twenty-four hours a day – in nicely chanting and remembering the Lord’s divine name, transcendental form, qualities, and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging one’s tongue and mind. In this way one should reside in Vraja [Goloka Vṛndāvana-dhāma] and serve Kṛṣṇa under the guidance of devotees. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lord’s beloved devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service.
In summary, the essence of all advice, or the main thing, is to organize one’s life around a strict, serious, and sincere practice of devotional service with the aim of becoming sufficiently strong spiritually to turn conditioned souls toward loving service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, especially by distributing transcendental knowledge through Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books.
Devotees derive unlimited benefits from adhering to the rigid practice of devotional service: (1) By developing all good qualities, they become attractive; (2) They develop a taste for all things related to Kṛṣṇa and for sharing that taste with others; (3) They develop a deep affinity for hearing and studying scripture; (4) They develop transcendental vision. All these qualities make for highly effective distributors of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s transcendental books. In short, the distributors become empowered – invested with spiritual power.
Read More in “Our Family Business,” available here.
After an exhilarating Bhadra Campaign, we bring you the Be a Sage Webinar recording!
Let’s focus our energy and hearts into living the message of the Bhagavatam through diligent reading! Watch the full webinar below:
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And here are the UNFORGETTABLE gifts from this seminar!
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The 2020 worldwide Bhadra Campaign saw devotees triple the Srimad-Bhagavatam set distribution of previous years, obliterating their initial goal of 10,000 sets. All told, over 22 countries and 150 cities participated to distribute more than 23,000 sets despite the challenges of COVID-19.
The Bhadra Campaign was launched in 2017, inspired by the Srimad-Bhagavatam verse 12.13.13, which states, “If on the full moon day of the month of Bhadra one places Srimad-Bhagavatam on a golden throne and gives it as a gift, he will attain the supreme transcendental destination.”
The campaign is also driven by Srila Prabhupada, who encouraged devotees in a 1977 letter, “I want that every respectable person has a full set of Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrta in his home.”
This year’s campaign began with Vaisesika Das, the Global Duty Officer for book distribution, presenting it at February’s GBC Meetings in Mayapur before the pandemic.
Vaisesika requested GBC support for a global team, in which devotees around the world would work together towards a common goal culminating on Bhadra Purnima, September 2nd. He also asked each GBC member to assign representatives for the Bhadra campaign in their geographical area and work with the Bhadra team to coordinate the effort.
The goal – 10,000 Srimad-Bhagavatam sets distributed around the world – already seemed like a stretch, as the global team hadn’t been able to surpass 7,000 for the previous two years. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many felt like it was an impossibility and would need to be postponed, setting Bhadra off to a slow start.
In some ISKCON communities such as Vaisesika’s home temple of ISKCON Silicon Valley, California, and in the UK, however, devotees took the crisis as an opportunity to do even bigger than before. With the motto “distribute from home – all you need is a phone,” they organized Zoom calling parties and contactless delivery.
Meanwhile, with only three weeks left to go, a series of Zoom calls with ISKCON luminaries inspired other teams around the world to do the same. The first featured GBC Gopal Krishna Goswami and BBT Trustee Bhima Das, speaking to 100 sankirtan leaders gathering virtually. A call with Radhanath Swami saw an incredible 800 devotees gathering on Zoom, and thousands more watching on Facebook and Youtube. Bhakti Raghava Swami, Indradyumna Swami, Jayapataka Swami and Devamrita Swami also took to Zoom to speak about the importance of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and rally the troops.
Soon, the energy caught on globally, and the results followed. “Many centers around the world set challenging goals and were able to smash them!” says Shyama-Mohini Dasi, co-sankirtan leader at ISKCON Toronto, Canada, who helped coordinate the worldwide effort. “Some even doubled and tripled their numbers! Baltimore, for example, had a goal of 108 but did 200 sets. ISV had a goal of 500, and more than tripled it.”
India led the scorecard with an amazing 17,444 sets distributed, followed by North America with 4,218. Hundreds of sets were also distributed in Africa, Oceania and Europe.
While door to door distribution or setting up tables could not happen in most parts of the world due to COVID-19, devotees got together via calling parties and reached out to their personal contacts, as well as contacts of ISKCON centers. Others also reached out to favourable people via social media. Anyone who got sets was encouraged to refer their friends and family. Books were shipped out around the clock from various BBT divisions around the world, or contactlessly delivered to people’s porches.
A wide range of devotees drove the campaign – in North America, efforts were propelled by congregation members from over fifty communities, as well as the brahmachari members of the Yuga Dharma Ashram based in Atlanta. In the UK, Australia, New Zealand and India, teams of full-time sankirtan devotees or congregation members worked together.
At ISKCON Silicon Valley, Sukhesvari Dasi, who runs the Bhagavata Seva online program for teaching children the Srimad-Bhagavatam, put donations she received towards the Bhadra campaign, raising thousands of dollars to sponsor Srimad-Bhagavatam sets for distribution.
“We even had two-year olds distributing sets by retelling stories and slokas from the Bhagavatam in videos that were shared online, swaying the hearts of many,” says Shyama-Mohini.
The campaign culminated on Bhadra Purnima on September 2nd with a “Bhadra Dana Yajna” during which the names of those who had participated in or donated towards the Bhadra campaign were offered to the fire.
The yajna took place with COVID-safe precautions in Ahobilam in South India, the site of Lord Nrsimhadeva’s pastimes, and was livestreamed with a screen split into three. The first segement showed the priests performing the fire sacrifice. The second scrolled the thousands of names of participants and donors. And the third showed senior devotees such as Giriraja Swami speaking from their homes about the importance of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and its distribution; as well as chanting by famous kirtaniyas like Gaura Dasi and Kishori Jani.
Overall, the Bhadra Campaign was beneficial for everyone. For many recipients, receiving the Srimad-Bhagavatam was a life-change experience, according to Vaisesika.
“Moving that many spiritual books into one’s house has a marked effect on the lifestyle,” he explains. “Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura says that the Bhagavatam is Goloka [the spiritual world] itself. And the Svetasvatara Upanisad says, there’s no difference between Krishna and the Bhagavatam. So the spiritual influence is noticeable. We find that when people commit to it, and take the set of Bhagavatams, they become joyful.”
For example in St Augustine, Florida two brothers received a Bhagavatam set and began chanting Hare Krishna, reading, speaking to senior devotees, and became vegetarian. They announced that their parents were also not eating meat anymore, and that their mom was excited by the new shift. They even donated one Srimad-Bhagavatam canto and transported sets for distribution themselves. Many other such stories abounded during the Bhadra campaign.
Meanwhile, devotees felt that they were witnessing the miracle of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy. Despite posing major challenges, the pandemic had spurred them on to think outside of the box, and to take full advantage of the Internet and other electronic means of distribution, with wildly successful results.
In addition, the pandemic has made virtual systems such as Zoom conferences, Facebook live videos and online courses more a part of our lives than ever, helping book distributors to reach their long sought-after goal of better follow-up with people who have received books.
Popular follow-up programs include Bhakti Community Online (https://bhakti.community/), where people can access courses and podcasts that help them learn more about the timeless texts of Bhakti Yoga and how to implement devotional practices into their daily life.
By Krishna’s arrangement, Shravanam Week (September 3rd to 9th), run by ISKCON Education Ministry Executive Director Tapana Misra Das, started the day after Bhadra Purnima, promoting resources such as online reading groups and sangas, which will help those who have received Prabhupada’s books to better imbibe them.
“We see Bhadra Purnima as an opportunity to emphasize reading and studying the books, as well as distributing them,” Vaisesika says.
We have two new episodes of our podcast for you to listen to and become inspired by!
First up, we have an exciting discussion on Bhagavatam and the Bhadra Campaign with HG Malini Devi Dasi, Co-sankirtan leader at Iskcon of Silicon Valley as she talks us up on how Bhagavatam sets are being distributed during the lockdown!
Next, we talk to young leader Bhakta Rishi of the Sacred Street Party from Pandava Sena UK about Our Family Business for the next generations: How they organize their events to reach the public with books, kirtan and prasad!
Tune in on your favorite platform below:
Let us know your thoughts. Hit like, subscribe and share with your friends!
The Following is an excerpt from “Our Family Business” By His Grace Vaisesika Dasa, available here.
In ISKCON we hear devotees say “Books are the basis.” Śrīla Prabhupāda himself used this phrase in a letter to Maṇḍali Bhadra Dāsa dated January 20, 1972: “My first concern is that my books shall be published and distributed profusely all over the world. Practically, books are the basis of our movement. Without them our preaching has no effect.” He uses it again in a letter to Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami (January 9, 1976): “Books are the basis of our movement. Whatever appreciation we are getting on account of our books, it is because we are following the path chalked out by exalted devotees.”
So what does it mean that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books are the foundation – the basis – of ISKCON? We can begin to understand by reading the letter Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote to Dāmodara Dāsa on December 3, 1971:
I’m especially pleased to hear that your distribution of our books and magazines has increased. Go on in this way, increasing more and more. Each time someone reads some solid information about Kṛṣṇa his life becomes changed in some way. These literatures are the solid ground upon which our preaching stands, so I want that they should be available to everyone, as many as possible. So please try for this.
It is interesting that Śrīla Prabhupāda uses the word “solid” twice in this letter. Before Śrīla Prabhupāda published Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, there were hundreds of translations of the Gītā in English, but almost none of them introduced Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and encouraged readers to surrender to Him and attain the supreme goal of life, pure love of God. Consequently, after reading those translations, hardly anyone outside of India became a devotee of Kṛṣṇa – they did not read “some solid information about Kṛṣṇa” and so change their lives.
In stark contrast, as soon as Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples began to circulate Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, hundreds of thousands of people in the West took up Kṛṣṇa consciousness seriously, as the text recommends, and many, many more took it up in India. Today, millions of devotees have heard the clarion call of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, and more continue to do so daily. Bhagavad-gītā As It Is – and all of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s other books – are “the solid ground upon which our preaching stands.” These books change lives.
What makes them special? First, they undeviatingly and ceaselessly promote unmotivated, uninterrupted devotional service to the Supreme along with the practical means to attain it. Second, they precisely and authoritatively describe the name, form, abode, pastimes, and loving associates of the Supreme Personality of Godhead along with instructions on how to make one’s way back to the spiritual world. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purports are not simply the musings of a single author; they are both authoritative and realized. This not only makes Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books relishable, it makes them rare in the world of spiritual literature. As he wrote in the letter to Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami I just quoted, “Whatever appreciation we are getting on account of our books, it is because we are following the path chalked out by exalted devotees.”
The descriptions of the Lord and the spiritual world in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purports are enthralling. Here is one from his purport to Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 5.22:
The residents of Vaikuṇṭha have brilliantly black complexions much more fascinating and attractive than the dull white and black complexions found in the material world. Their bodies, being spiritual, have no equals in the material world. The beauty of a bright cloud when lightning flashes on it merely hints at their beauty. Generally the inhabitants of Vaikuṇṭha dress in yellow clothing. Their bodies are delicate and attractively built, and their eyes are like the petals of lotus flowers. Like Lord Viṣṇu, the residents of Vaikuṇṭha have four hands decorated with a conch shell, wheel, club, and lotus flower. Their chests are beautifully broad and fully decorated with necklaces of a brilliant diamondlike metal surrounded by costly jewels never to be found in the material world. The residents of Vaikuṇṭha are always powerful and effulgent. Some of them have complexions like red coral cat’s eyes and lotus flowers, and each of them has earrings of costly jewels. On their heads they wear flowery crowns resembling garlands.
In the Vaikuṇṭhas there are airplanes, but they make no tumultuous sounds. Material airplanes are not at all safe: they can fall down and crash at any time, for matter is imperfect in every respect. In the spiritual sky, however, the airplanes are also spiritual, and they are spiritually brilliant and bright. These airplanes do not fly business executives, politicians, or planning commissions as passengers, nor do they carry cargo or postal bags, for these are all unknown there. These planes are for pleasure trips only, and the residents of Vaikuṇṭha fly in them with their heavenly, beautiful, fairylike consorts. Therefore these airplanes, full of residents of Vaikuṇṭha, both male and female, increase the beauty of the spiritual sky. We cannot imagine how beautiful they are, but their beauty may be compared to the clouds in the sky accompanied by silver branches of electric lightning. The spiritual sky of Vaikuṇṭha-loka is always decorated in this way.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s descriptions of the fascinating setting in which Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s loving relationships take place against the backdrop of the sublime Vṛndāvana forest, with its cows and monkeys, its peacock and deer, Govardhana Hill and the Yamunā River, and the enchanting sound of the flute, draw readers to the Lord. Descriptions this distinct make it possible for readers to step away from their distant concepts of God and fall in love with Him. To find this kind of potency even in a religious book is rare.
Besides giving us descriptions of the Lord and the spiritual world, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books teach us how to develop an intimate, loving relationship with Kṛṣṇa as His servant, friend, parent, or lover as we advance from an awakening of faith to unalloyed love for the Supreme. Some of his translations offer us a glimpse into Kṛṣṇa’s thinking, as does this translation from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 4.15–26):
The Lord wanted to taste the sweet essence of the mellows of love of God, and He wanted to propagate devotional service in the world on the platform of spontaneous attraction. Thus He is known as supremely jubilant and as the most merciful of all.
[Lord Kṛṣṇa thought:] All the universe is filled with the conception of My majesty, but love weakened by that sense of majesty does not satisfy Me. If one regards Me as the Supreme Lord and himself as a subordinate, I do not become subservient to his love, nor can it control Me. In whatever transcendental mellow My devotee worships Me, I reciprocate with him. That is My natural behavior.
In whatever way My devotees surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pṛthā. If one cherishes pure loving devotion to Me, thinking of Me as his son, his friend, or his beloved, regarding himself as great and considering Me his equal or inferior, I become subordinate to him.
Devotional service rendered to Me by the living beings revives their eternal life. O My dear damsels of Vraja, your affection for Me is your good fortune, for it is the only means by which you have obtained My favor.
Mother sometimes binds Me as her son. She nourishes and protects Me, thinking Me utterly helpless. My friends climb on My shoulders in pure friendship, saying, “What kind of big man are You? You and I are equal.” If My beloved consort reproaches Me in a sulky mood, that steals My mind from the reverent hymns of the Vedas.
The major works Śrīla Prabhupāda chose to translate and commentate, particularly the Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, and The Nectar of Devotion, provide readers with a complete, inspiring, and balanced course of instruction on bhakti-yoga. His unparalleled purports display a level of compassion and faith in Lord Caitanya’s mercy, in the process of devotional service, and in the power of the works themselves that is rarely seen in the world. Arguably, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purports have broken open the same storehouse of love of Godhead that Lord Caitanya and His associates plundered over five hundred years ago. Because the teachings in his purports are so down to earth and practical, beginners in spiritual life can follow them, but they also satisfy advanced practitioners who have learned how to read the layers of meaning they contain and thus find elucidations of the topmost devotional practices and sentiments. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purports – through their sensible, simple, clear, yet eloquent instructions on the proper execution of bhakti – can set people at all levels of spiritual development solidly on the path to pure devotional service.
His purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.9.36 is an example of both his deep compassion and his faith in the power of devotional service:
Therefore there is no need to seek properly qualified candidates for discharging devotional service to the Lord. Let them be either well behaved or ill trained, let them be either learned or fools, let them be either grossly attached or in the renounced order of life, let them be liberated souls or desirous of salvation, let them be inexpert in the discharge of devotional service or expert in the same, all of them can be elevated to the supreme position by discharging devotional service under the proper guidance.
Sincere seekers, advanced practitioners, and especially those dedicated to expanding ISKCON can thus be confident in their study of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, knowing that what he is offering, especially in his purports, will help them build a strong devotional foundation and progress safely to the goal of life. And they can be confident that by distributing these transcendental books, they are helping others to do the same. What’s more, because Śrīla Prabhupāda strongly emphasized that all services connected to the saṅkīrtana movement are of equal value – gurukula, farming, scientific research, restaurants, Deity worship, and cleaning the temple room floor – those who have learned from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books have gone out and applied what they’ve learned in all kinds of ways, and people can now visit any ISKCON project and learn how to apply the knowledge in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books.
Be A Sage, Page By Page
How to upgrade your life by reading Srila Prabhupada’s books!
An interactive webinar by His Grace Vaisesika Prabhu
August 22, 7AM PDT
Presented by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust & ISKCON Ministry of Education
The Following is an excerpt from “Our Family Business” By His Grace Vaisesika Dasa, available here.
There are a couple of myths that have grown up around the service of distributing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books. One of them is that it’s difficult. While that may be true at first, once you commit to doing it, Kṛṣṇa helps you from within and without. From within He gives you courage, intelligence, and a taste of spiritual happiness. In a letter to Rāmeśvara Dāsa dated January 11, 1976, Śrīla Prabhupāda called book distribution “really intoxication.”
From without, Kṛṣṇa sends sincere souls to take the books you are distributing. Even when people don’t take books or they choose to ignore you, with time you will become more patient, detached, and determined. You will learn to become unflinching in your devotional service. When the cowherd boys in Vṛndāvana entered the mouth of Aghāsura (in the twelfth chapter of Kṛṣṇa Book), they told one another: “If we all at one time entered into the mouth of this great serpent, how could it possibly swallow all of us? And even if it were to swallow all of us at once, it could not swallow Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa will immediately kill him, as He did Bakāsura.”
Talking in this way, all the boys looked at the beautiful lotuslike face of Kṛṣṇa, and they began to clap and smile. And so they marched forward and entered the mouth of the gigantic serpent. So when you go out to distribute books with friends, together you will laugh off the fear or disappointment, remind one another that Kṛṣṇa is protecting you, and, with the beautiful lotuslike face of Kṛṣṇa in your mind’s eye, march forward to fight māyā together.
Wherever I go, I see that the devotee communities dedicated to distributing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books are unusually inspired. When devotees see people reading Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books for the first time, they remember how sweet their own beginnings in Kṛṣṇa consciousness were, and how they too had a first discovery of the power of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books in their lives. What’s more, devotees who go out to distribute books come back with a natural enthusiasm to hear and chant about Lord Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya. They also dream of ways to increase book distribution and how to follow up with the people they are meeting: collecting the names and contact information for interested persons, keeping in touch with them, and inviting them to participate in Kṛṣṇa conscious programs that appropriately address their needs.
So let’s distribute Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books and, like the cowherd boys, laugh in the face of any apparent danger. Let’s help Śrīla Prabhupāda further Lord Caitanya’s saṅkīrtana movement and thus lift the world from its current state of degradation. You will feel a surge of Kṛṣṇa conscious enlivenment – the moment you pick up his books and start thinking of ways to distribute them, your mind and senses will come alive with spiritual energy, just as if you had touched a wire electrified by spiritual current.
When I meet with devotees who are nervous about going out to distribute books for the first time, I ask them to repeat the following mantra: “Book distribution is fun and easy.” When they repeat the mantra, I can see some of them are still wondering if I’m serious.
Yes, I’m serious.
Here is a collection of quotes from Srila Prabhupada about the importance of book distribution.
Actually producing and distributing books is our most important engagement, all other engagements culminate in this one end — distribution of books. (Letter to: Tamala Krsna — Bhaktivedanta Manor 27 July, 1973)
There is no doubt about it, to distribute books is our most important activity. The temple is a place not for eating and sleeping, but as a base from which we send out our soldiers to fight with maya. Fight with maya means to drop thousand and millions of books into the lap of the conditioned souls. Just like during war time the Bombs are raining from the sky like anything. (Letter to: Ramesvara — Bhaktivedanta Manor 3 August, 1973)
Our main business is to distribute my books and people will come gradually. Everything should be done for that purpose. (Letter to: Ramesvara 7 November, 1976)
This [book distribution] is our most important work. All the leaders should tax their brains for increasing the sales of our books. I have always said that if we simply rely on book distribution all our needs will be met. (Letter to: Rupanuga 11 January, 1976)
Anywhere, this is our main program. Print books as many as possible and distribute. This is our main program. All other programs are secondary. So with this aim in view, work all together. (Room Conversation — January 9, 1977, Bombay)
Regarding printing our books and literatures, I may inform you in this connection that I saw one bulletin of “Indian Railways” in which it was specifically advised that every railway servant should see to it that the wheels of the carriages or vehicles must be moving always, which means that the railway is going nicely. Similarly all of us should see that our literatures are profusely distributed. That means that our missionary work is going on nicely. Otherwise we are simply sleeping and eating. (Letter to: Karandhara — Nairobi 9 October, 1971)
Ramesvara: Everyone is now wearing these “Double It” buttons. The whole movement is simply thinking of doubling book distribution, doubling it.
Prabhupada: Yes, that is our real mission. Yare dekha tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa. That’s all. (Discussions — June 2, 1977, Vrndavana)
The main thing is to distribute books more and more. That remark by the man in Houston is to your credit, that this movement is becoming an epidemic. Actually, everywhere envious people are against this movement, especially communists, because this movement is a threat to them. The main thing is to distribute books. (Letter to: Balavanta — Vrindaban 4 October, 1976)
I am glad to know that your sales of our literature and books are very good and improving more. It is natural that such distribution of literatures should increase as the people hear more about Krsna Consciousness Movement, so distribution of our books and literatures is our major propaganda program. (Letter to: Ranadhir, 29 June, 1970)
We don’t approve that go in a solitary place and chanting. My Guru maharaja did not approve! This is all nonsense. You cannot chant. Sir you’ll sleep only and think of all nonsense. You must be engaged for preaching work! (Morning walk LA 1973/12/14)
So-called transcendental meditation, go to the Himalaya and go to the forest. We are not interested in all this nonsense. Our only business is to spread Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, door to door, town to town, city to city. We are not going to seclusion. Prahlada Maharaja said, “This is professional bluff: ‘I am going to the Himalaya. I am going to the forest.’ ” Prahlada Maharaja condemns that “These are professional bluffs.” Or they may be sincere, but still, they are trying for their own salvation. Prahlada Maharaja said, “I am not interested in that sal… I am interested for everyone’s salvation. Everyone must go back to home, back to…” That is Vaisnava, not that “For my own salvation I go to Himalaya or in the forest and transcendental meditation, nonsense…” We are not interested in those things. (laughs) (Morning Walk – February 3, 1976, Mayapura)
I am so much pleased to hear how you are so enthusiastic for distributing our books and literatures. Krishna will surely bless you. This book distribution program is our real propaganda work and Krishna is giving you intelligence how to do it nicely. Thank you very much. (Letter to: Madhucara — Nairobi 25 September, 1971)
I am very glad to hear how the book distribution is increasing more and more. This is our greatest weapon. The more the books are distributed, the more the ignorance of the Age of Kali will be smashed. The world is feeling the weight of this Hare Krishna Movement, especially in your country. We have to increase this book distribution work more and more to firmly establish this Movement, which is the only hope for the suffering living entities. (Letter to: Balavanta — Vrindaban 23 November, 1976)
Hare Krishna! Please join us for the Bhadra Purnima 2020 campaign. Our goal is to distribute 10,000 sets of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“If on the full moon day of the month of Bhādra one places Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam on a golden throne and gives it as a gift, he will attain the supreme transcendental destination.” – SB 12.13.13
In other words, if you participate by distributing a set, you get the gift of going home, back to Godhead. This is your ticket to Goloka!
As Srila Prabhupada wrote in his preface, we need to re-spiritualize the world. People are suffering. Let’s give them the Bhagavatam! You can even do it remotely, over the internet or the phone.
This year, Bhadra Purnima is on September 2nd. In addition, a special maha-fire-yajna will be performed at Naimisaranya for all participants. Please join us for this historic event, at this historic time!
“I want that every respectable person has a full set of Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrta in his home.” -Srila Prabhupada Letter 77-01-24
The following excerpt is from “Our Family Business” by Vaiśeṣika Dāsa.
In the beginning days of ISV I spoke to a group of young devotees going out on book distribution for the first time on their own after four weeks of instruction. Before they left, I asked them, “So, what is your primary goal?”
“To distribute books!” someone replied.
“No,” I said, “that’s your secondary goal. Your primary goal is to leave every person you meet with a good impression. Whether the person takes a book or doesn’t take a book, whether the person is a local or a visitor, whether the person is friendly or inimical, you must do your best to leave that person with a good impression. Leave everybody with a gift, whether it be a book, some prasāda, the holy name, or simply a smile. For those who are antagonistic, your gift may simply be a cheerful ‘thanks anyway’ or ‘It was a pleasure meeting you.’ Please go out in this mood and leave every single person with the feeling that you are a sādhu, a person with spiritual values. This is the goal.”
When the team returned from their day’s work, their leader wrote: “We made a good impression on many people: the shopkeepers, the police, and everyone else we met. We distributed prasāda to all the local workers, and they were happy. And by the way, we also distributed all of our books.”
Besides building a good image of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, one person at a time, the practice of leaving people with a good impression also keeps our distributors thinking in terms of our movement’s long-term interests. Leaving people with a good impression requires that a distributor check his or her false ego in the interest of the greater mission.
Here are some of the mantras we promote at ISV to remind ourselves to stay in the proper mood while going out on book distribution:
- Teaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness means giving.
- I am in the business of serving.
- I distribute books for self-purification.
- I save one soul at a time, beginning with myself.
- I treat people with respect.
- I express gratitude and thanks to the people I meet, live with, and associate with.
- I am Kṛṣṇa’s instrument.
- Every person is special, and I remind them that they are.
- I make friends with as many people as possible.
- I am a team player.
(Pg. 349-350, Chapter 18, Mood and Method)
As the world continues to deal with the pandemic, the sankirtan mission has continued to grow and evolve over the internet!
Please check out the video below for fresh updates in the area and strategies you could implement to spread the message of the Gita in these desperate times.
This is a guest post from Caitanya Chandra Dasa’s Free E-book, “Getting the Mercy: Preaching, book distribution and the ultimate goal”
Read the rest here: www.gettingthemercy.com
Lord Caitanya thought, “My name is Visvambhara, ‘one who maintains the entire universe.’ Its meaning will be actualized if I can fill the whole universe with love of Godhead.” Thinking in this way, He accepted the duty of a planter and began to grow a garden in Navadvipa. Thus the Lord brought the desire tree of devotional service to this earth and became its gardener. He sowed the seed and sprinkled upon it the water of His will. (Cc. Adi 9.7-9)
Lord Caitanya thus addressed the multifarious varieties of branches and subbranches of the tree of devotional service: “Since the tree of devotional service is transcendental, every one of its parts can perform the action of all the others. Although a tree is supposed to be immovable, this tree nevertheless moves. All the parts of this tree are spiritually cognizant, and thus as they grow they spread all over the world”. (Cc. Adi 9.31-33)
In the Sri Caitanya Caritamrta (Adi-lila, chapter 9), it is described how the sankirtana movement descended from the spiritual realm. When manifested in this world, the sankirtana movement grows like a tree which emanates from Lord Caitanya personally. This tree has many branches connected to the main associates of the Lord, and from them grow various sub-branches that correspond to the main acaryas of our sampradaya. One of the biggest of such branches relates to Srila Prabhupada who created ISKCON and connected all of us in the form of numerous twigs and leaves.
There are four famous verses in the Caitanya Mangala (Sutra-khanda, song 12, verses 562-565) where Lord Caitanya says:
nama-guna-sankirtana vaisnavera shakti prakasa karibe ami nija prema-bhakti
ei mate kali-papa karibe sanhara sabe cala age pache na kara vichara
Chanting of the name and qualities of Krsna gives the energy to the Vaishnavas. I will reveal these activities, a pure devotional service unto Myself. In this way I will destroy all the sins in Kali Yuga. So all of you, My associates, go ahead and take birth on the earthly planet before My advent and don’t remain behind.
ebe nama sankirtana tikshna khadga laiya antara asura jivera phelibe katiya
yadi papi chadi dharma dure dese yaya mora senapati-bhakta yaibe tathaya
Taking the sharp sword of nama-sankirtana, I will root out and destroy the demoniac mentality in the hearts of all the conditioned souls. And if some sinful people escape and giving up dharma go to far off countries, my Senapati Bhakta will go there to deliver them.
The expression “Senapati Bhakta” refers to a highly exalted devotee and preacher. Senapati is a military expression which means “commander-in-chief”. From recent history, we can understand that the chief commander is Srila Prabhupada. Not only did he start the western front of Sri Caitanya’s movement, but he also brought it back to India, reestablishing the eternal principles of devotional service amongst the Indians themselves.
In the Caitanya-Caritamrta (Madhya 7.128) the Lord gives us another very famous verse: 18
yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desa
Yare dekha, tare kaha means: “Wherever you go and whoever you meet”, krsna’-upadesa: “Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krsna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam”. And then: amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desa: “By my order become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.”
There are different types of spiritual masters. The initiating spiritual master should be a liberated soul, a very elevated devotee that has not only firm faith and knowledge, but also realization, and is therefore capable of elevating his disciples up to the ultimate goal. As Srila Prabhupada teaches us in the Nectar of Instruction (purport to verse 5):
“A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master”.
The second type is the instructing spiritual master, who should also be a liberated soul, capable of further instructing one how to develop his relationship with Krsna. Both the initiating and instructing spiritual masters should be very elevated Vaishnavas. As Srila Prabhupada points out in the previous quote, a neophyte devotee may eventually assume these roles when other, more advanced Vaishnavas are not available, but this is not an ideal situation.
Finally, there is the connecting guru, who introduces one to Krsna consciousness. By giving a book or prasadam, inspiring him to start chanting and coming to the temple, or whatever it may be: the one who introduces a new person to Krsna consciousness. He is called vartma pradarsaka guru: the guru that makes the initial connection. Even if someone is not a very advanced devotee, still he knows something, and by repeating whatever he knows, he can connect others to Krsna.
HG Yasodanandana Prabhu: Prabhupada’s room at the Radha-Damodar temple, you can see behind, there were these little holes that let the wind come through and you can actually see behind in the courtyard. So Shyamasundara’s daughter, Saraswati, was there, and she was pulling on the shirt of a little Bengali gentleman and she was telling the gentleman, “Who is Krsna? Do you know who is Krsna?” And the gentleman had this amused look on his face. Saraswati may have been 4 or 5 years old at the time, she was very young. Prabhupada was looking and we were looking, and the man was amused that this little girl would ask him that. Then she told him, “Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and you should surrender to Him.” And Prabhupada said, “Just see, she is a guru. She is preaching about Krsna.” (Following Srila Prabhupada – A Chronological Series)
This system is so perfect that if one of the gurus (be the connecting guru, instructing guru, diksa guru, or even the father or mother), can somehow direct his dependents to the right path, putting them on the way back to Godhead, he can also go by sharing the merits of the disciple or son/daughter, even if he himself is imperfect. The prime example is Dhruva Maharaja. His mother, Suniti, acted as his vartma pradarsaka guru by instructing him to go to the forest and worship Krsna. In due course of time, Dhruva Maharaja became a perfect devotee and went back home back to Godhead, taking his mother with him. As Srila Prabhupada humbly points out in his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 4.12.33, if we can help a single soul to become perfect in Krsna consciousness, then, despite our imperfections, we can also go back to Godhead:
“This incident proves that the siksa- or diksa-guru who has a disciple who strongly executes devotional service like Dhruva Maharaja can be carried by the disciple even though the instructor is not as advanced. Although Suniti was an instructor to Dhruva Maharaja, she could not go to the forest because she was a woman, nor could she execute austerities and penances as Dhruva Maharaja did. Still, Dhruva Maharaja was able to take his mother with him. Similarly, Prahlada Maharaja also delivered his atheistic father, Hiranyakasipu. The conclusion is that a disciple or an offspring who is a very strong devotee can carry with him to Vaikunthaloka either his father, mother or siksa- or diksa-guru. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say, “If I could perfectly deliver even one soul back home, back to Godhead, I would think my mission — propagating Krsna consciousness — to be successful.” The Krsna consciousness movement is spreading now all over the world, and sometimes I think that even though I am crippled in many ways, if one of my disciples becomes as strong as Dhruva Maharaja, then he will be able to carry me with him to Vaikunthaloka”.
Despite being a liberated soul, Srila Prabhupada wrote in such a way just to give us the example as to what our mentality should be. Instead of pursuing our own liberation, we should try to help others to become Krsna conscious.
Whatever our situation is, we can serve the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by spreading Krsna consciousness to others; and the main tools to spread the sankirtana mission are the books. There is a reason for that: in the past, people used to be more simple and open-minded. If you would come to their village chanting, they would immediately get curious and ask about it. After hearing the explanation that these are the names of God and so on, they would immediately join. Because they were simple-hearted, they would start to chant, and immediately the chanting would have effect: they would become devotees. After that, you could give them some simple instructions and they would follow. This still happens in some villages in India, but in most places nowadays, people are crooked and complicated. You go on chanting but they can’t simply accept and also chant. They come with many misconceptions and prejudices: Is this paganism? Is this Hinduism? They want to understand, analyze, therefore it’s difficult to convince these types of “sophisticated” people with the chanting alone. You would need to spend a long time with each person to get some result.
Therefore, we have spiritual books, which are an efficient way to affect modern people. If we can just convince them to read our books, they’ll find all the answers there. If a person is a little pious, by the time he finishes the book, he’ll be willing to chant and join. If not, we can give them another book, some prasadam, another book, more prasadam, etc. until they get convinced. This way, on each encounter a person receives something, becoming more purified, up to the point he is ready to become a devotee.
“Persons who had formerly criticized Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, calling Him a drunkard, also ate the fruit and began to dance, saying, “Very good! Very good!”
Purport: When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu started the sankirtana movement, even He was unnecessarily criticized by Mayavadis, atheists and fools. Naturally we are also criticized by such men. They will always remain and will always criticize anything that is actually good for human society. But the preachers of the sankirtana movement should not be deterred by such criticism. Our method should be to convert such fools gradually by asking them to come and take prasadam and chant and dance with us. This should be our policy. Anyone who comes to join us, of course, must be sincere and serious regarding spiritual advancement in life; then such a person, simply by joining us, chanting with us, dancing with us and taking prasadam with us, will gradually also come to say that this movement is very good. But one who joins with an ulterior purpose, to get material benefit or personal gratification, will never be able to grasp the philosophy of this movement. (Cc. Adi 9.53)
Even if someone doesn’t become a devotee in this life, our books will have some effect on his life — they will make him rethink and change a few things. Nowadays, so many people are becoming vegetarians, starting to believe in karma and reincarnation, protesting against animal slaughter, desiring a less materialistic lifestyle, etc. We can be sure that the mass distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books in the last five decades is the main factor behind these changes in society. And the more we distribute, the more the world will change.
“The sankirtana movement has been introduced by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu just to dispel the illusion of maya, by which everyone in this material world thinks himself to be a product of matter and therefore to have many duties pertaining to the body. Actually, the living entity is not his material body: he is a spirit soul. He has a spiritual need to be eternally blissful and full of knowledge, but unfortunately he identifies himself with the body, sometimes as a human being, sometimes as an animal, sometimes a tree, sometimes an aquatic, sometimes a demigod, and so on. Thus with each change of body he develops a different type of consciousness with different types of activities and thus becomes increasingly entangled in material existence, transmigrating perpetually from one body to another. Under the spell of maya, or illusion, he does not consider the past or future but is simply satisfied with the short life span that he has gotten for the present. To eradicate this illusion, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has brought the sankirtana movement, and He requests everyone to accept and distribute it”. (Cc. Adi 9.36)
This post is part of a series from Caitanya Chandra Dasa’s e-book, “Getting The Mercy: Preaching, Book Distribution and the ultimate Goal.”
Read the whole book here: www.gettingthemercy.com
In recent years, many books about book distribution have been written and published. With so many experienced book distributors sharing their experience, it seems that book distribution in ISKCON is entering a new era.
At the same time, there is a great danger: weakened spiritual practices, lack of systematic training and focus in bridge preaching and ritualistic activities are reducing the number of stable and experienced book distributors in our movement. Many of our experienced book distributors are becoming old, and it is still not clear if a new generation is going to step forward to replace them. If these tendencies are not addressed, we may instead enter a dark age, where book distribution may become part of a forgotten past.
HG Aindra Prabhu was speaking about a kirtana grassroots revolution. Similarly, we can create a book distribution grassroots revolution, starting with interested individuals and them progressing to all spheres of our ISKCON society. We can learn from past mistakes and master ways to not only increase the quantity, but also improve the quality of our book distribution, touching people’s hearts and inspiring them to study our books and start their spiritual path.
Srila Prabhupada once said that history will mark how ISKCON saved the world in its darkest hour. As the world society becomes more and more degraded, our mission to step forward and bring some light in the form of spiritual books becomes more and more urgent and necessary. For this, we need some moons: devotees that will be inspired to dedicate their lives to improve their spiritual practice and to inspire others through their example and potency.
This book is my small attempt in this direction. The main factor in deciding about publishing this book as a free e-book instead of hard copy is to allow all interested devotees to have easy access to it and to share with their friends. There is no marketing department or advertising budget: this book is being propagated by word of mouth alone. If you get some inspiration, some valuable information, or some realization in this book, feel free to share it with others.
Read the whole book here: www.gettingthemercy.com
This is part of a series from the free e-book “Getting the Mercy” by Caitanya Chandra Dasa:
Preaching, book distribution and the ultimate goal| www.gettingthemercy.com
One of the most sublime characteristics of the gopis is their mood of compassion and renunciation. The gopis don’t strive to see Krsna themselves, but they use all their energy to make arrangements so that others may see Krsna and be engaged in His service. They act like that because they don’t want to enjoy themselves; they want Krsna to enjoy.
Krsna needs His associates to enjoy Himself, therefore He has an unlimited number of associates. Yet, Krsna is so expert that there is no limit to how much or how many He can reciprocate with. The love and reciprocation are always increasing; and as it increases, Krsna’s pleasure increases unlimitedly. When Krsna comes to this material world, He shows His pastimes to attract us, conditioned souls, to enjoy with Him. When the gopis see someone who has a sincere desire to associate with Krsna, they teach this jiva how to love Krsna, and make arrangements that this soul can finally re-attain his eternal position as Krsna’s associate. Srila Prabhupada says that when Srimati Radharani sees a devotee chanting Krsna’s name sincerely, She tells Krsna, “Please accept him, see how he is sincere? He is a better devotee than I am”, so Krsna can’t refuse. This selfless love makes the gopis very dear to the Lord.
HG Vijaya Prabhu: This activity of book distribution is not only very pleasant to Krsna, but in the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.31.9) it’s stated “tava kathamrtam tapta- jivanam”, that Your words are like nectar for those who are suffering the pangs of material existence. And it’s the life and soul of those who are desiring to serve You. Tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam, kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham… these are great sages, and Prabhupada stated: simply by hearing Your glories, they become free from all sinful reactions. Sravana-mangalam: it’s the most auspicious activity, to hear Your glories. Srimad atatam: it’s a very powerful process for advancing to Your lotus feet. Bhuvi grnanti ye bhuri-da janah: and those persons who are distributing this knowledge, they are the most munificent. This is a sankirtan verse spoken by the gopis. So, the gopis are very, very happy, especially Srimati Radharani, She’s really happy that we go out and are spreading the glories of Krsna, because Krsna is Her Lord and Master.
There was one sankirtan leader that said that book distributors are in the mood of the gopis, because the gopis they get more pleasure in bringing other gopis to Krsna than when they go to Krsna. So, some other said: Oh, here we go, the sankirtana devotees are becoming a little bit sahajias. It became a controversy: it’s true or not true?
One big advantage of having Srila Prabhupada on the planet was that when there was a controversy, devotees would write to Prabhupada. He would write back, and the controversy was finished. So they wrote to Prabhupada: “This is true?”
Prabhupada wrote back: “Yes, this is true. The book distributors are in the mood of the gopis because they are trying to bring others back to Krsna.” Book distributors are very dear to Srimati Radharani, to all the gopis. This attracts and pleases Krsna, and by attracting Krsna, we go back to Krsna. (Class in Mayapur, 28 February 2018)
When Krsna comes as Lord Caitanya, He exhibits this same mood, freely distributing love of Godhead and bringing everyone whom He meets to the platform of devotional service. Not only Lord Caitanya’s direct associates, but our main acaryas, like the Six Goswamis, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati are intimate associates of Srimati Radharani who came to this world to rescue the fallen jivas. They teach us how to love Krsna, selflessly working to increase His pleasure, and give us the rare opportunity to become their servants and join the eternal pastimes of the Lord.
That’s what the sankirtana movement is all about: learning how to love Krsna selflessly and unconditionally. As the gopis don’t strive to see Krsna themselves, but try to arrange for others to see Him, we also need to learn this mood of not trying to enjoy ourselves (which is still reminiscent of our egoistic propensity of being the enjoyers), but of giving pleasure to the Lord by engaging more and more jivas in His service. As Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say, “do not try to see Krsna; act in a way that Krsna will want to see you”.
“When the Lord is unhappy because of the condition of the fallen souls, the devotee consoles Him, saying, “My dear Lord, do not be in anxiety.” This is service. Everyone should adopt the cause of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to try to relieve Him from the anxiety He feels. This is actually service to the Lord. One who tries to relieve Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s anxiety for the fallen souls is certainly a most dear and confidential devotee of the Lord.” (CC Antya 3.52 purport)
At the beginning of our devotional life, we quickly learn the importance of keeping the association with devotees and avoiding the non-devotees. Staying close to devotees we learn about devotional service and keep our faith strong, and by avoiding non-devotees association we don’t get contaminated again by their materialistic tendencies and bad habits. This is especially important in the beginning, otherwise, one may never be able to become serious in devotional life. This is the “fanatical stage” that most of us need to go through. This is explained in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 23.14:
adau sraddha tatah sadhu- sango ’tha bhajana-kriya tato ’nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha rucis tatah
“‘In the beginning there must be faith. Then one becomes interested in associating with pure devotees. Thereafter one is initiated by the spiritual master and executes the regulative principles under his orders. Thus one is freed from all unwanted habits and becomes firmly fixed in devotional service. Thereafter, one develops taste and attachment.’
The first step in devotional service is sradha, that somehow we get some faith that Krsna consciousness is the right thing and develop a desire to follow the process. This faith may come from reading Srila Prabhupada’s books or by talking with some preacher, for example. From this preliminary faith, we start associating with devotees (sadhu-sanga), and by their grace start following the process (bhajana-kriya), which eventually leads us to anartha-nivrtti, where we gradually get rid of our vices and attachments. This causes a problem: we get rid of our attachments to different sinful activities only relatively later in spiritual life, during the anartha-nivrtti stage. In other words: during the first stages of our spiritual life, we need to practice and follow the principles, while at the same time still attached to different bad-habits and different objects of sense gratification.
It’s just like a new brahmacari: he somehow got convinced that to be trained as a brahmacari and follow spiritual life strictly is the best for him, and as a brahmacari he should stay away from ladies. In many cases, the only solution for him, in the short term, is to resort to extreme measures, actively avoiding ladies. This creates additional problems (he may mistreat and offend many vaishnavis) and doesn’t really solve the problem (the attachment is just converted in aversion), but it may work as an emergency measure until he becomes more mature. Without this, the tendency would be for him to just start to talk and intermingle with ladies until he would get in trouble.
Similarly, when we start practicing spiritual life we are still attached to associate with our karmi friends, to go to the restaurant with them, to the nightclub, smoking, drinking, etc., things that we need to stop in order to follow devotional life seriously. Therefore, we adopt a hard-line stance, similar to the brahmacari, converting this attachment into aversion, creating a barrier between “us”, the devotees, and “them”, the karmis.
The desirable evolution for us would be to gradually get over our attachments, elevating ourselves to a more neutral platform, where we are simply not interested in these sinful things, and therefore can relate to people in a more natural way, trying to help them as far as possible, without getting disturbed by their bad habits. That’s also the long-term solution for the brahmacari: to achieve a neutral platform, where he is not so much attracted to ladies, and therefore can behave in a more natural way with them, without attachment but also without aversion.
Unfortunately, that’s not what always happens. Many times, as we gradually progress getting engaged in book distribution and other forms of preaching, we end up getting stuck in this fanatical phase, developing a “holier-than-thou” mentality, seeing ourselves as devotees of the Lord, the pure and immaculate people, who came to save the world; and all the others as karmis, the degraded and sinful, to whom we can’t even get close without getting contaminated.
This mentality has two main problems:
First, it brings a mundane mentality of friends and enemies, “we” and “they”, which is condemned by Prahlada Maharaja in his teachings: sa esa atma sva-parety abuddhibhir duratyayanukramano nirupyate: “Persons who always think in terms of “enemy” and “friend” are unable to ascertain the Supersoul within themselves.” (SB 7.5.13). We start seeing karmis as enemies, and thus develop an envious mentality, trying to confront and take advantage of them, instead of seeing them as eternal parts and parcels of the Lord. The classical example of this is a devotee who collects money on book distribution by using crooked methods, developing an envious mood towards other living beings. A preacher that thinks that he is better than others will always mistreat the public, burn people and commit many mistakes. That’s a dead end in our spiritual evolution.
HG Vijaya Prabhu: Another trick of Maya and the mind is to infect us with the holier- than-thou mentality, in which we think of the nondevotees as low-class karmis. But Lord Caitanya is Patita-pavana, the savior of the most fallen, so that makes us more fallen than the karmis because we were somehow chosen to be recipients of Lord Caitanya’s mercy and not them. In His Siksastaka Lord Caitanya teaches that one should think oneself lower than the straw in the street, i.e., lower than the people we’re approaching. Humility is so important. In the early days of ISKCON devotees used some aggressive tactics, tricking people into taking books and giving more money than they intended. But the result was that the movement got a bad reputation and many devotees couldn’t keep distributing books. Ultimately it was a lose-lose situation. Bhaktivinoda Thakura said, “When will I go out to teach the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu with a humble heart?” (The Treasure of the Brhat Mrdanga, Ch. 5)
The second problem is that this “friends-and-enemies-mood” leads to seeing people in the street as being separated from the Lord; thus when we go out we see the material nature, instead of bringing the spiritual world to them. The result of this mentality is that we feel drained doing sankirtana, instead of getting enthusiastic, as it should be. Therefore, we start seeing book distribution as an austerity, that we try to avoid as much as possible. As Vaishnavas, we should be able to always remain connected with Lord Caitanya, to carry Him in our hearts when we go out to preach and distribute His mercy to others. As it is said in the first verse of the Sri Sri Sad Goswami Astakam: “sri-chaitanya-krpa-bharau bhuvi bhuvo bharavahantarakau”. The Six Goswamis carry in their hearts the mercy of Lord Caitanya and therefore they are competent to relieve the burden of the world.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura showed this point perfectly by leaving Mayapur to preach in Kolkata, despite being ordered by Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji to never go there. By his superior understanding, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta could understand that going to preach doesn’t mean to associate with materialists, rather preaching means to associate with Lord Caitanya in the most intimate way, by participating in His sankirtana movement. Acting in this way, he didn’t disobey his spiritual master — on the contrary, he fulfilled the deep purport of his instructions. Actually, he never went to Kolkata; he stayed in Mayapur in the company of Mahaprabhu and brought the Dhama to the midst of the city. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada left Vrindavana to preach in the west with the same spirit, following the example of his Guru-maharaja. Instead of coming to the west to associate with the westerners, as so many Indian swamis did before him, he brought the spiritual world to us.
As devotees, we don’t have enemies. How can we have enemies, if everyone is not only part and parcel of the Lord but actually His eternal associate? As Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita:
“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same”. (Bg. 2.24)
It is not that there are two distinct types of souls, one called “devotee” and the other “non- devotee”. The soul is eternally the same, and in a deep sense can never be contaminated by the material nature. The problem is that when a soul wants to enjoy this material world, he associates with the material ignorance, that manifests itself through the three modes of nature, of which the false ego, material intelligence, and material mind are byproducts. Becoming temporarily covered by these different layers, the soul may appear to be something else, but actually, this is a material vision, since eternally transcendental to these coverings, the soul is still the same. Therefore, as devotees, we need to see that the enemy is not the living entity, but rather the ignorance that covers him. When we go out on book distribution, we are not fighting anyone, the only thing that we are fighting is the ignorance. That’s what it means to fight against maya.
Once, during a cold morning walk, Srila Prabhupada started to smack the puddles which had frozen. He would stop, smack a puddle, walk on and again smack the next one, making it shatter. When asked why he was doing that, Srila Prabhupada answered: “Because this is not the natural condition of the water. Similarly, it is not our nature to be in Maya. We must break the back of the material energy. To be in maya is not our natural condition.” (Memories, Tamal Krishna Goswami)
By smacking the puddles, Srila Prabhupada was illustrating that our mission as preachers is to bring the soul back to his natural condition.
“Godhead is light. Nescience is darkness. Where there is Godhead there is no nescience.” This material world is full of darkness and ignorance of spiritual life, but by bhakti-yoga this ignorance is dissipated” (SB 7.8.24, purport).
“A Krsna conscious person should free himself from the clutches of maya, and he should also be compassionate to all others suffering in those clutches. The activities of the Krsna consciousness movement are meant not only for oneself but for others also. This is the perfection of Krsna consciousness. One who is interested in his own salvation is not as advanced in Krsna consciousness as one who feels compassion for others and who therefore propagates the Krsna consciousness movement. Such an advanced devotee will never fall down, for Krsna will give him special protection. That is the sum and substance of the Krsna consciousness movement. Everyone is like a play toy in the hands of the illusory energy and is acting as she moves him. One should come to Krsna consciousness to release oneself and also to release others.” (SB 6.2.36- 37 purport)
Therefore, we should use our energy to devise methods, how to gradually extirpate this ignorance. With every encounter, each person should get a little closer to Krsna — be that by getting a book and giving a donation, by holding the books and hearing some glorification about them, by saying “Hare Krsna” (even if only one time), by praising the books or the devotees, by smiling and saying “hello” to a devotee, or whatever else it may be. All these are service, and every time a person sees a devotee and does any kind of service, he gets one step closer to devotional life.
To attain this, it’s essential to be honest and kind to people on book distribution, so that they leave with a positive impression. As Srila Prabhupada said, “our devotees should be adored by their honesty”. If we are distributing books in ways that make people inimical to the devotees (thus making them commit offences which in fact drags them further away from devotional life), we may actually be doing a disservice to Srila Prabhupada’s mission. Of course, to make mistakes is part of our nature as conditioned souls, but we should try to learn from our mistakes. As HG Navina Nirada Prabhu said in a class at the Ukrainian Bhakti Sangam festival of 2010: “I’m the one seated here [on the vyasasana] because I’m the person here that committed most of the mistakes that one can make.”
During the years, I developed some practical realization of these words. Whatever mantras I use, or whatever good advice I can give, comes from thousands and millions of mistakes that I committed (and still commit) while distributing books. You should not be afraid of committing mistakes, because everyone does. If I would receive one dollar for each mistake that I ever did on sankirtana, I would surely be a millionaire! The point is that we should be attentive and try to learn from them.
The most grievous mistakes that we commit on book distribution are connected with qualities derived from the lower modes of nature, especially pride and anger, which can be neutralized by cultivating qualities connected with the mode of goodness, like humility and self-control. The book distributor should be the perfect representative of the ideals of spiritual life, so people can be touched by his example and thus become interested in spiritual life themselves.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.11.13) we find an extremely important instruction on this regard:
titiksaya karunaya maitrya cakhila-jantusu samatvena ca sarvatma bhagavan samprasidati
The Lord is very satisfied with His devotee when the devotee greets other people with tolerance, mercy, friendship and equality.
The best way to develop this kind of ideal compassionate mentality and start interacting with people in a deep and personal way is to develop this deep vision of seeing them as Krsna’s eternal associates, our eternal friends, and to honestly try to help them in every respect to become closer to the Lord, without demanding anything in return. When a doctor treats a patient, sometimes the patient, being in an abnormal condition, may verbally offend or even physically attack the doctor, but being aware of the patient’s painful condition, the doctor doesn’t take offence and continues trying to help the patient. Similarly, being in an abnormal condition, people may be rude to us, yet we should see this only as a reflection of their suffering. Of course, we shouldn’t insist if a person is rude or doesn’t want to hear, but still, we should meditate on ways to help them. We should just try to do what can be more beneficial to each person on each encounter, even if in some cases this may mean to just stay away to prevent him from committing further offences.
When we get to this stage, sankirtana ceases being a difficult thing, an austerity, and becomes something very natural and pleasant. We stop going to the material world to preach, and instead, start to bring the spiritual world with us when we go out. At this stage, our bodies may get tired after eight or nine hours of preaching, but we ourselves just want more and more. And, as time goes on and we start identifying less with our material bodies, even that may cease to be a problem, like in the case of Sri Vakresvara Pandita, who could dance on kirtana continuously for 72 hours in Caitanya-lila.
In an advanced stage, we should be able to see everything connected with Krsna and try to engage everything in Krsna’s service, including the material energy and the conditioned souls. Whenever we see an opportunity, a spark, we should fan it until it becomes a flame and starts burning out the ignorance around. As Srila Prabhupada used to say: “if you see a spark, fan it!”. By doing so, despite any personal inconvenience or danger, we will surely also become dear to Krsna.
“Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura said that the position of a Vaishava can be tested by seeing how good a touchstone he is — that is, by seeing how many Vaishavas he has made during his life. A Vaishava should be a touchstone so that he can convert others to Vaishnavism by his preaching, even though people may be fallen like the hunter. There are many so-called advanced devotees who sit in a secluded place for their personal benefit. They do not go out to preach and convert others into Vaishavas, and therefore they certainly cannot be called sparsa-mani, advanced devotees. Kanistha- adhikari devotees cannot turn others into Vaishavas, but a madhyama-adhikari Vaishava can do so by preaching. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised His followers to increase the numbers of Vaishavas”. (CC Madhya 24.277 purport)
“A pure devotee of Narayana is never afraid of going anywhere and everywhere. For him heaven and hell are one and the same.” (SB 6.17.28) Such devotees, wandering all over the world, deliver those who are actually afraid of this material existence. Some people are already disgusted with material existence, being confused and frustrated by material enjoyment, and some people, who are intelligent, are interested in understanding the Supreme Lord. Both may take advantage of the pure devotee who wanders throughout the world. (SB 4.30.37 purport)
Before coming to the west, Srila Prabhupada wrote extensively both in English and in Bengali, publishing articles in both his own Back to Godhead and in the Gaudiya Patrika. In one article from 1956, entitled “Karunaya-avatirnah kalau”, published originally in Bengali, he elucidates the importance of preaching and the qualifications for someone willing to do so:
“Anarpita-carim-cirat – This topmost of all benedictions, which reveals to the jiva his transcendental, natural dharma, and which can inundate the whole world, has not been bestowed for a long, long time. If we contact it but are unable to understand Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings, or even if we can understand them but do not try to help others understand, then surely we will be deprived of this love for Sri Gaura.”
“Following the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu ourselves and helping others follow them are one and the same”.
Srila Kaviraja Gosvami wrote the following about Srila Haridasa Thakura:
apane acare keha, na kare pracara pracara karena keha, na karena acara ‘acara’, ‘pracara’, – namera karaha ‘dui’ karya tumi – sarva-guru, tumi jagatera arya (Antya-lila 4.102–3)
Some persons behave properly but do not preach the glories of chanting sri nama, whereas others preach but do not behave according to the principles. In relation to the holy name, you both behave in an exemplary way (acara) and preach to others (pracara). You are the guru of all, for you are the topmost devotee in this world. Since acara (practice) and pracara (preaching) are one and the same, they should be simultaneously and actively cultivated. Those who claim that spiritual maturity is an essential prerequisite to preaching, do not have an admirable conception, because preaching is identical to kirtana. Bhakti has nine limbs, or nine kinds of practice, and the limb that excels all others is kirtana. It is through this one practice alone – kirtana, or preaching – that all the other limbs attain purity.
Indeed, this was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s teaching to us. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the most munificent incarnation, imparted the same instruction. He commanded one and all to perform the function of guru everywhere. He has apprised us of this order as follows:
yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desa (Madhya-lila 7.128)
“My order is to instruct whomever you meet to follow the instructions of Sri Krsna as given in the scriptures, which advise one to worship Him. In this way become guru and deliver everyone in this land.”
If Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura Prabhupada had waited for his disciple-preachers to attain perfection before he engaged them in acting for the welfare of others, his system of preaching would have unfolded quite differently. With the aim of revealing the glory of Sri Gaura’s potency, he personally transmitted that potency to ordinary persons, who generally were only fit to perform menial work even by the standards of the material world. By thus engaging them in preaching activities in the form of hari- kirtana, his mission attained success.”
“Mukam karoti vacalam – By the mercy of Sri Guru, even a dumb man can become the greatest orator.” We had the opportunity to directly witness this. How can a dumb man become a great orator? If one preaches the pure, unadulterated teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu, then and only then is it possible. But the moment we mix His pure teachings with even a few words of our own speculation, it marks our greatest misfortune. This act alone becomes the root cause of our complete destruction. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not come to teach anything abstruse that would be difficult for the common people to comprehend. If He had done so, the statement “jagat-plavana – inundation of the whole world with prema” would have no truth. He is certainly more intelligent than each and every one of us, and He knows how to make the fallen souls of Kali-yuga best understand His high-level teachings. Indeed, His teachings are comprehensible by all. Still, our misfortune prevails. First, we do not accept His teachings. Second, to impress others with our prowess we mix something of our own with them.”
“Only the endeavour to spread the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in a simple manner, while being careful not to manipulate them even slightly, will be our sole bhajana. But if a person waits till he becomes perfect before he disseminates those teachings, he will be deprived of the service of preaching. Indeed, he will remain in that immature state throughout his whole life.”
“Even if we fully lack the capacity to understand the pure and simple teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, if we just pass them on, carrying them to the next person like a load-carrying donkey, we will still receive Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s blessings. This is, of course, provided we do not adulterate those teachings with any of our own mental speculations.” (Srila Prabhupada, Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 7, Issue 2, 1956, translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team)
This is a recent article written by Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News. Original link here.
With most ISKCON temples around the world now closed except to residents due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and most devotees staying at home under “shelter-in-place” orders, day-to-day life can be a challenge.
In these times, it can be good to hear from a well-wisher who is grounded in both real-world smarts and spiritual understanding. We spoke to Vaisesika Das, Prabhupada disciple, temple president at ISKCON Silicon Valley in California and longtime inspirational leader, and asked him to provide some practical advice and uplifting words on how to stay safe and sane during a pandemic.
Take COVID-19 Seriously and Follow Precautions
“I don’t think that as a whole, from what I’ve heard, we ISKCON leaders are taking this seriously enough,” Vaisesika says. “I think we should set a good example by simply following what the scientists are telling us about the Coronavirus, and what we should do about it. We shouldn’t speculate, put forward conspiracy theories, do things halfway or say it’s not a big deal.”
“I think that’s dangerous not only because it could help to spread the virus in our communities and all over the world,” he adds. “But also because it’s a bad image for us, showing that we didn’t really care, or that we didn’t put the most into it that we could have.”
Use Five Tips For Working and Living at Home
Vaisesika’s five tips for working and living at home with the whole family during the pandemic are:
1) Get yourself a “Do Not Disturb” sign. “If you need time to yourself now and then, you should have it.”
2) Start your day right with a strong morning routine. Vaisesika advocates writing down an affirmation or goals for the day, chanting a set number of rounds, and reading a set number of pages from Prabhupada’s books. “Don’t hang out in your pajamas all day,” he says. “Be regulated.”
3) Set ground rules for the people in your space. “Have a discussion, and make time for everyone to talk about the things they need in order to remain steady and sane.”
4) If you’re working at home, schedule breaks. “Interestingly, although we’re all at home, I find that people are working twice as hard as they were before the pandemic,” says Vaisesika. “Often they used to get relief while commuting. But now that everyone’s home, they’re practically barraged 24 hours a day – ‘Hey, you’re home, you might as well get on the phone with me.’ So schedule your own breaks during the day, and follow them completely.”
5) Dedicate some space in your house for the place where you work, and the place where you do your spiritual practice. “Then set it up so it’s clearly demarcated, and everything doesn’t all merge together.”
Stay in the Moment
“It really helps to see each day as a self-contained unit,” says Vaisesika. “Stay in the moment, and stay in the day.”
He adds: “For instance, this morning I woke up and I read my 41 pages of Bhagavatam. There were a lot of other things I could have done, urgent emails I could have read. But instead I said, “I’m counting my pages, and I’m not gonna budge from that. And as soon as I started reading, I started to feel relief.”
Find Your Community
While we have to physically isolate, it’s important not to be emotionally isolated, and to find association with other devotees.
“Try to connect with the outside world through the Internet,” Vaisesika says. “I have noticed that more than ever before, devotees everywhere are broadcasting out, because they have a need to connect with others. So find your community online, participate and feel part of it.”
Channel Your Anxiety into Practical Steps
It can be hard not to get swept up in the environment of fear created by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, Vaisesika says, “There’s anxiety, and then there’s panic. Panic means you’ve reached the level of irrationality. You start doing stuff you don’t have to do, wasting money, time and energy, and getting yourself into more trouble than you were in before.”
Anxiety, however, can be channeled into practical steps. “Make a list of the things you absolutely know you have to do, and then take care of them,” Vaisesika advises. “For instance, if you need to take care of your finances, get online and shore ‘em up. Do whatever you have to do. Don’t be constantly worrying about it. Just do the practical things and leave the rest to Krishna, knowing that you did your part, and the now the world’s going to move in its own way.”
Don’t Chase the News
To reduce anxiety and increase peace of mind, “Wait for the news, don’t attack it,” Vaisesika says. “Don’t check in every ten minutes – it’s not that vital for you. You know what you have to do — stay home, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face! That’s within your zone that you can do something about. Don’t stay constantly on the 24-hour news cycle, because it’s moving too fast for our brains to process.”
He clarifies: “Of course, it’s not that we should avoid news altogether, especially during this time when vital information may be important. Rather, one can aid one’s peace of mind by lengthening the intervals between one’s consumption of such news. There is no need to constantly chase it.”
Ask the Right Questions
“In my corporate seminars, I teach that there are two questions you can ask in difficult situations,” Vaisesika says. “One is ‘Why me?’ That question leads you down into the darkest regions of anxiety, and it keeps you there. So that’s the wrong question to ask.”
“The right question is, ‘What is the lesson in this?’ And if you keep asking that question, “What is the lesson, what is the lesson, what is the lesson?” no matter how things are changing in your life, it will give you a higher perspective immediately.”
“This is how a devotee sees things, according to Lord Brahma in the famous Srimad-Bhagavatam verse 10.14.8, tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo. That whatever’s happening to me, even if it appears to be inconvenient, there’s a lesson in it for me, and it’s coming from a benevolent Source who’s trying to teach me something.”
Step Back and Look at The Situation From A Higher Level of Vision
While COVID-19 and the struggles and tragedies it yields are very real, sometimes it can help to look at things from a more cosmic, philosophical level of vision.
“The whole material nature is always being destroyed, and it’s always changing,” says Vaisesika. “So rather than getting attached and trying to hold on, just observe that it’s changing, and think, ‘Isn’t this interesting?’”
“Within the lifetime of any living entity, there’s going to be some changes. And our lifetime, according to Brahma, is over in a couple minutes. So it’s not that significant.”
What’s more, Vaisesika says, “Nobody – even in the Coronavirus pandemic – is really, truly dying. Because we don’t die – we actually just change bodies. According to Vedic sastra, everything’s happening according to an exact plan. Karma is perfect, and Krishna, who designed it, is perfectly benevolent.”
“So whatever’s happening, is happening for a reason. In one sense, nobody’s actually dying – we’re only moving from one circumstance to another. So from a much higher perspective, we can see that this is just the churning of the material nature. And we need not become overly upset about it.”
This Too Shall Pass
From yet another perspective, Vaisesika says, “This too shall pass.”
“Everything blows through,” he concludes. “And looking back on it, everyone’s going to see that this was a very pivotal time in history, when, at least for the people who took advantage of it, we were able to get a new lease on life.”
This is GITA GOVINDA DEVI mataji from Japan.
In the 80’s and 90’s she was one of the top three book distributors in the world.
Altogether she sold over half a million books and magazines.
On the streets, putting them into the hands of people, in exchange for their willing donations.
When asked about her secret, she explained that “quantity depends on quality, and quality depends on purity, so all we need is A SINCERE DESIRE to please Guru and Krishna, and to truly benefit the people we meet.”
Photo circa 1995.
OVER HALF A MILLION BOOKS! Just by one shy and modest woman.
We may forget our quiet heroes, but her guru, Srila Prabhupada, and Krishna won’t. She miraculously manifested Lord Caitanya’s power and therefore she is worshipable.
Note: This post was found circulating around Facebook. I do not know who originally wrote it.
Happy Narasimha Caturdashi everyone!
For the pleasure of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we are pleased to announce the Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura Book Distribution Marathon. It’s Lockdown Sankirtan!
It starts today, Nrsimha Caturdasi, and ends on June 20th, the divine disappearance day of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura made a great effort to send books about Lord Caitanya all over the world. We can too!
During this pandemic, let’s follow in his footsteps by dispatching Srila Prabhupada’s to every part of the globe!
We’ve discovered how easy it is to distribute books via the Internet, and also by phone, through texting and calling!
To make it fun, we’ve started “calling parties” in which hundreds of devotees can join together simultaneously on Zoom and Facebook, while they distribute.
Let’s give the soothing balm of Srila Prabhupada’s books to those who are worried, and wondering what to do at this pivotal time.
Let’s make a statement by coming together for the next several weeks to distribute more books than we’ve ever done before.
Read the official announcement here:
Watch the video here:
This is a guest post by Caitanya Chandra Dasa. Read more of his writing at www.gettingthemercy.com.
Sometimes, sankirtana devotees may somehow develop an elitist mentality, that gives others the message that book distribution is the best service, that everybody else is in maya, etc. This is not just offensive, but also counterproductive, since it creates conflicts and tends to alienate devotees who are not book distributors, but could also assist in different capacities if properly cultivated.
There may be also different priorities in different situations. For example, in the early 1970s, when book distribution was starting, there were very few devotees and Srila Prabhupada wanted to spread the movement quickly. At that time there were only a few hundred devotees to preach in the whole world, so if these few devotees would concentrate on just one city, trying to maintain a temple there, what about the rest of the world? In this situation, Srila Prabhupada’s strategy was to make book distribution the topmost priority, to just distribute the biggest possible amount of books, as quickly as possible, even in places where devotees would not go back again. There was a big sense of urgency, to bring the message to the people. This effort gave fruits: so many people started coming because of the books, and ISKCON really started to spread around the world.
“There is no doubt about it, to distribute books is our most important activity. The temple is a place not for eating and sleeping, but as a base from which we send out our soldiers to fight with maya. Fight with maya means to drop thousand and millions of books into the lap of the conditioned souls. Just like during war time the Bombs are raining from the sky like anything”. (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Ramesvara, 03 August 1973)
Of course, nowadays we still have space for this pioneer flavor. There are still so many cities that don’t have temples, don’t have devotees, where nobody ever heard about Krsna consciousness, so there is still a lot of space and need for this very intensive program of book distribution. A small party or even one devotee alone can go to such places for a few days, distribute as many books as possible and then go to the next city. Even one devotee doing this alone can create a lot of change in these places. However, when we come to a point where we already have hundreds of devotees in the city, then the goals change a little bit. Then it’s not just about doing bombing-raids anymore, it’s time to start an invasion.
Book distribution by itself is just like a bombing-raid: we throw a lot of bombs, creating a lot of destruction in the enemy’s territory, but we don’t really take the place, we just bombard, preparing the field. Eventually, we need to actually invade: to fight street by street and finally take the city. When we get to this point, then we can’t just continue only distributing books: we should combine further distribution of books with the cultivation of the persons who are receiving the books. Even in the front lines, we should create some balance between book distribution and cultivation, doing these two things side by side.
From this point, our concern is not just to give books to a person, but to also take his address, know a little bit about him, invite him to some program. We want him to really read the book, and return with questions, so we can keep in touch and cultivate him until he becomes a devotee. The priorities somewhat change.
Outside the front lines, the change is even more dramatic. Since now there will be already a number of devotees, there is the necessity of inspiring and organizing them, creating a cooperative effort to increase the preaching exponentially. The goal changes from simply distributing a large amount of books to also making devotees: to increase from one hundred to one thousand devotees, from one thousand to ten thousand, then to one hundred thousand, and then take the whole city.
In my 50 years of studying and lecturing on subjects contained in the translations and purports of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in over sixty volumes of books, I am often thinking whether the target market is as large as I wish it to be. Perhaps the verses and quotations in Sanskrit and Bengali language combined with profound philosophical and spiritual topics makes it difficult, if not impossible for common people to understand.
In our modern-day society people are occupied with an almost endless diversity of activities, beliefs and thoughts seemingly contrary to the message contained in the books of Srila Prabhupada. I use the word “seemingly”, because time is changing. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center the U.S. public overall appears to be growing a bit less religious – but also somewhat more spiritual.
A deep sense of spiritual peace and a deep sense of wonder about the universe has risen, which people feel more comfortable with; a universally applicable truth that reaches beyond the boundaries of religious belief systems. My attempt is to dispel the doubt in peoples mind that Srila Prabhupada’s books are dogmatic and only meant for a rather small, selective group of people. My studies brought me to the conclusion that these books are beneficial for everyone, because they contain universal truths relevant to the lives of every person on this planet.
Ten Reasons that Srila Prabhupada’s books are meant for everyone:
01. Srila Prabhupada’s books reveal the truth about the temporary, material existence.
Whatever the individual, particular interests of a person might be, there is a vast variety of fields of knowledge the mind and intelligence get absorbed in, but the fact remains that every subject matter of mundane study and knowledge is of a temporary nature. And that temporary nature is contrary to nature of the eternal soul, the eternal living entity.
Human evolution begins when inquiry into the eternal nature of existence is awakened in one’s mind. In the Brahma-sütra this inquiry is called brahma jijïäsä. Athäto brahma jijïäsä. Every activity of the human being is to be considered a failure unless he inquiries about the eternal nature of the Absolute.
If we truly believe, if we accept that every human being, in fact every living entity, is an eternal soul, knowledge of the eternal nature, described in detail in Srila Prabhupada’s books, is for the self-interest of every human being on this planet. In no other literature do we find such detailed and voluminous knowledge about the Absolute as in Srila Prabhupada’s books. Therefore, these books are most beneficial for everyone without any discrimination.
02. Srila Prabhupada’s books contain the most detailed knowledge of the material creation and the cosmic manifestations.
Even ordinary people at one point in their lives begin to wonder about this universe, about the millions of stars they see at night in the sky. Although being primarily occupied most of the time with material life, such thoughts at times begin to manifest. It creates a sense of belonging. Having a sense of belonging is a common experience. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions.
Most people feel connected with their family members, friends, social media, religion, etc. Similarly, there is a natural sense of belonging related to this world, this universe, material creation. What is my connection to, what is my role, in this creation? What is my purpose in life? Why do I exist in the first place? These or similar thoughts are like flashes in the mind of every human being.
Srila Prabhupada’s books answer all those questions in an overwhelming way, leaving no questions open. Many people have or had this experience with Srila Prabhupada’s books that they do not search for knowledge, but rather transmit knowledge. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada’s books satisfy profoundly the sense of belonging related to the cosmos we are living in and the overall material creation.
03. Srila Prabhupada’s books precisely explain the three modes of material nature by which everyone is bound and conditioned in a particular way.
The three modes of material nature – a fascinating subject matter. A subject matter entirely lacking in societies’ educational system and yet it is most important. Every thought anybody in ordinary life has, any activity a person performs, any desire someone has, any foodstuff people eat, even hope and faith are influenced by the modes of material nature.
These three modes of material nature condition a person in a particular way. People want to be free or think that they are free, but without becoming free from the influence of the modes of nature there is no question of freedom. One is being forced to act and behave in a particular way, often even against one’s own will. Many times, people regret something they have said or done to somebody. It is being imposed upon them by the modes of material nature.
Being educated in the nature and function of the three modes of material nature reveals the truth about one’s own psycho-physical nature, the particular condition of one’s birth and so much more. What could be more interesting for anyone? It gives an answer to so many questions we have. Srila Prabhupada’s books educate people in the science of the three modes of material nature. It is a must for anyone to study.
04. Srila Prabhupda’s books inform people about the detailed laws of karmic reactions – the cause of suffering or joy.
Generally, people are bewildered about why there is so much suffering in this world. Why do bad things happen to good people or why do good things happen to bad people? Not understanding the stringent laws of karma, they lean towards atheism. How can an all-good, all-knowledgeable God allow all this suffering to go on without interfering? He could instantly put an end to all the miseries and evil in this world.
The present life is only one frame out of an entire film spool (reel) of material existence. People don’t see the whole picture, being ignorant of the reactions of past life’s activities that are about to strike or bless us in the present life. That of course does not mean we should justify violence committed to any living being by thinking that this is the karma of the victim. Perhaps it is, but perhaps it is not. Why does the Vedic injunction states, mä hiàsyät sarvä bhütäni: “Never commit violence to anyone”, if everything is karma? Human beings have a certain amount of freedom of choice. They can create new good or bad karma. The ksatriyas in Vedic society provide protection against violence. If everything would be simply karmic reactions, it would be against the laws of karma, if ksatriyas would interfere. The laws of karma are extremely complex and it requires to be educated about them by receiving accurate knowledge, historical stories and examples, to be able to understand karmic reactions in a proper way.
Since everybody is the subject of karmic reactions, it is in everyone’s own interest and for everyone’s own benefit to become aware of the laws of karma. It can potentially instantly change anyone’s life for the better by understanding the causes of suffering. Srila Prabhupada’s books provide this knowledge, not only related to how to avoid suffering reactions to one’s own deeds, but also how to become free from suffering reactions dating back to previous life’s existence altogether.
05. Srila Prabhupada’s books remind everyone that there is a higher, spiritual purpose in life.
It is natural that people are engaged and absorbed in their respective studies, occupations, life’s pas- sions, etc. Societies and social life existed since ancient times and will continue to exist. However, there is a higher purpose in life, which extends beyond our present life. The soul which temporarily occupies a particular body continues to exist when the body comes to an end. To educate ourselves about the identity and nature of the immortal self, the soul, is a higher purpose in life. Anything related to that which continues to exist is of a higher nature than anything related to that which ceases to exist.
näsato vidyate bhävo – näbhävo vidyate sataù ubhayor api dåñöo ‘ntas – tv anayos tattva-darçibhiù
“Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both.” (Bg., 2.16)
This fact is eternally true, independent from whether we might consider this to be important or not or whether we believe in it or not. Without contemplating on the topics concerning the soul, human life has not yet begun. As Srila Prabhupda so accurately phrased it, “A materialistic society void of atma- tattva is a soul-killing society. Srila Prabhupada’s books are changing the destiny of such a society into a soul-revival society.
06. Srila Prabhupada’s books provide the knowledge of everyone’s eternal, constitutional identity.
Identity crisis / diffusion – individuals struggling to “find themselves”. Youngsters experience it when everything rapidly changes, especially their look and outlook on life, in their puberty. In many people’s life it re-appears as midlife crisis when they begin to realize that they are slowly heading toward old age. Is it worth hanging on to things which are transitory, passing? What will happen after death? These thoughts lead to another kind of identity diffusion; which people naturally try to cope with in various ways. But the questions remain unanswered.
From the spiritual perspective every living being in this creation forgot his eternal identity. What is someone’s position, who doesn’t know who he is in a deeper sense?
What is your name? “I don’t know.” Where do you live? “I don’t know.”
What is your nationality? “I don’t know.” What is your occupation? “I don’t know.” Who are your parents? “I don’t know.”
Such a person is considered to be in a pathetic situation and most probably has to be submitted to a mental hospital. Srila Prabhupada wrote an article “Who is crazy?” as an answer to the charge against the devotees that they are crazy people.
In the BG. Lord Sri Krishna says, “My dear Arjuna, there are different classes of men. One class of men, they are sleeping. And another class of men, they are awake. They are not sleeping.” To read Srila Prabhupada’s books is the awakening process. tamasi mä jyotir gama – “Don’t remain in this darkness. Go to the light.” This call and other similar Vedic aphorisms are meant for everyone without any discrimination.
07. Srila Prabhupada’s books educate us in seeing the spiritual unity of all living beings.
People are longing for the unity of all people, for one human race. “We are all brothers and sisters” are slogans in songs and prayers. Especially in the 60’s this concept had been embraced – “No restrictions between man and women”. Human beings had been perceived as one broad family. But in time these ideals had been scattered apart by the cruel reality of material nature. The basis of that concept was rather shallow and so disappeared over the years.
The fundamental basis for the unity of not only human beings, but rather all living beings we find described in Srila Prabhupada’s books. The Bhagavad-Gita is the most essential scripture on atma- tattva, knowledge of the soul. The soul is of the same spiritual nature in whatever body it temporarily resides in.
vidyä-vinaya-sampanne – brähmaëe gavi hastini çuni caiva çva-päke ca – paëòitäù sama-darçinaù
“The sages, by their true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brähmaëa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Bg., 5.18)
sama-darçinaù—who see with equal vision
This equal vision we find throughout Srila Prabhupada’s books described in philosophy, stories, and culture, Vedic culture. The more people read Srila Prabhupada’s books, the more they begin to understand the central point, the pivot, of everyone’s existence.
08. Srila Prabhupada’s books inform us about our lost, eternal relationship with Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“If there is a cause of all causes, if there is a God, how am I related to it?” Any rational person wants to know this.
Probability and statistics merely tell us how things happen, but we learn nothing about the causes which lead to these events. In science “causality” has always been a fundamental notion.
It is not unusual to hear people suggest that time plus chance accomplished the evolution of simple or- ganisms into more complex entities. There is a logical error in such statements. There is no such thing as chance. Chance is not an entity which causes things to happen.
Tossing a coin example: The odds are 50/50. What we forget is that one flip of the coin involves a whole chain of causal factors. The weight of the coin, the shape of the coin, the upward impulse of the toss, air resistance, spin–the initial conditions–all interact on each toss of the coin. It is a mathematical conven- ience to say that the probability of heads is 50% and the probability of tails is 50%. Every individual toss of a coin is controlled by the laws of physics. There is no mechanism called “chance” determining the outcome of any toss of the coin.
Chance as a cause does not exist. Srila Prabhupada’s books explain in remarkable detail that Lord Krishna together with His various expansions and energies is the cause of everything.
09. Srila Prabhupada’s books contain the highest knowledge of the different relationships the eternal souls can have with Lord Krishna.
The general concept of a relationship with God is that it is a relationship in awe and fear. This is con- firmed in the Taittiréya Upaniñad (2.8):
bhéñäsmäd vätaù pavate – bhéñodeti süryaù bhéñäsmäd agniç candraç ca – måtyur dhävati païcamaù
“It is out of fear of the Supreme Brahman that the wind is blowing, out of fear of Him that the sun regularly rises and sets, and out of fear of Him that fire acts. It is only due to fear of Him that death and Indra, the King of heaven, perform their respective duties.”
We also find similar descriptions in other literatures. However, the living entities can have other rela- tionships with Lord Krishna, relationships of a more familiar nature, of friendship, all the way to a conjugal relationship.
Srila Prabhupada’s books inform everyone about their eternal relationship with Lord Krishna. The description of five main “rasas” and their sub divisions is unique. People cannot find this information in any other scripture or religious teachings. It stands on its own, waiting to be delivered to every human being on this planet.
10. Srila Prabhupada’s books teach us in how to combine harmoniously our worldly life and duties with spiritual activities, leading to eternal liberation, free from all suffering.
People often shy away from getting involved in anything religious or spiritual, because they think it is incompatible with their mundane engagements and family affairs. Picturing the life style of a monk or a nun, a yogi or a Buddhist monk, they rather consider a spiritual path as an option for perhaps later on in their lives, if at all.
However, spiritual life can be taken up at any time and to whatever degree comfortable for the practi- tioner. The progress, however minute it might appear, will never get lost. Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavd-gita, 2.40:
“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.”
It is not like a material goal, which has to be completed, if considered to be successful. And still the option always remains to be fully dedicated to the spiritual path at any time.
In the past great kings and people from all walks of life practiced spiritual life despite their full in- volvement in mundane activities. Srila Prabhupada’s books give an inside in how to harmoniously com- bine mundane activities with spiritual activities. One does not exclude the other.
Therefore, Srila Prabhupada’s book are meant for everyone without any discrimination. There should be no doubt about it.
Here is a summary of a class given at the Rishikesh Kirtan Fest 2020, about the importance of distributing books, cultivating relationships, and staying connected with people after the program ends.
This material world is an ocean of misery. The Hare Krishna movement is a boat, headed back home, back to Godhead. We pull people out of the water to dance and chant and feast, but we don’t want to throw them overboard when the festival ends.
When Narada Muni instructed Vyasadeva, he explained how he first came to Krishna Consciousness. As a young boy, he had the good fortune to meet and serve elevated devotees. He was sincere, so they taught him Bhakti Yoga. Later on, he became the greatest spiritual master.
“As they were leaving, those bhakti-vedantas, who are very kind to poor-hearted souls, instructed me in that most confidential subject which is instructed by the Personality of Godhead Himself.” SB 1.5.30
Similarly, we have the opportunity to instruct these souls who are coming to our programs by giving them a book, exchanging contact information, and connecting them to their local center. It takes gallons of blood to make a single devotee – go the extra mile. Make a friend! This is why we are here.
You never know who will become the next acharya. See every soul’s unlimited potential, not where they are at today. Prabhupada said if he made even one pure devotee from all his efforts, he would consider his life a success.
Book distribution is key. They’ll forget what you say over prasadam, but if they have a book they can study it. Reading the Gita is direct association with Srila Prabhupada. Talk to one of our advanced devotees for tips and tricks for distribution. I’ve learned a bunch of things speaking to Shanti Parayan and Tara this week. Indradyumna Swami spent years distributing books and speaks fondly of those memories.
You can give away a small book, but explain to them it’s for their own benefit to give a donation. That penance qualifies them to read spiritual knowledge and connects them to the line of great teachers.
As Krishna said in the Gita, “For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.” BG 18.68-69.
When I asked for reflections, one girl Uma spoke at length, as a guest who has fallen in love with our festival, wants to become a devotee, and is already distributing books to her friends!
I also encouraged everyone to check in with their health and their sadhana. Sadhana is the irreplaceable basis of effective preaching. We’re almost halfway through this marathon event. How’s your japa? Are you reading? Be honest with yourself and always strive to become better.
All good fortune to you. Hare Krishna.
Your enthusiastic servant, Bhakta Eric Santagada